Sunday, September 11, 2011

Teaching Moments

Having four kids means I get a physical and mental workout every day, sometimes every minute of every day. I still picture myself in motion. When I think of the dance I do through this life, right now, I imagine I'm something like a spinning top or even the ball in the arcade-style ping ball machine. I'd like to be that graceful ballerina, with more limbs than tasks, beautiful lines, unending mute patience. And sometimes I am, but--let's face it--not very often!

While my legs and eyes are more tired than anything at this moment, I would have to say this weekend offered me more of the mental variety workouts. There were many teachable moments. Like when I had to try to explain why daddy was going to the doctor because we're done having babies, when the kids know it's mommy's body that changes, births and feeds those babies. Or when Lily excitedly and loudly proclaimed in Gabriel Brothers that she "found people from China!!" Or when we saw these beautiful double rainbows on the way home from a family dinner this evening. It was a driving rain kind of thunderstorm, but with the sun as bright as you can imagine. We were all searching for the rainbow and were doubly rewarded for, as I told the kids, "looking for the good thing in the storm."

But I have to say my most challenging teachable moment was trying to properly educate Lily and Max about 9/11 on this somber tenth anniversary. Yes, there were bad guys. About seventeen of them, I thought. They snuck weapons on planes, hijacked them, flew them into the towers and toward the Pentagon. They crashed the planes on purpose, killing everyone on board, killing people in the towers, and then killing even more as the towers fell. Many of those that died were firefighters and police officers helping others to escape. Yes, the bad guys were from other countries, BUT all people from other countries are not bad. Did we get them? Well, we got their leader, not too very long ago. He hid for ten years, but we finally found him. Was I alive when it happened? Oh, yes, I was. And I remember....

I remember a gorgeous sunny day in Columbus. I was sitting at my desk in my cubicle at the zoo, and I heard from a passing coworker that a plane hit the World Trade Center. Being the curious journalist I am, I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine to join others in watching the television coverage, stunned just as they were. The crowd kept growing, and so did the horror. I was twenty-two and scared for my country. I cried when the second plane hit and again when the towers fell. The zoo veterinarian gave me a hug, and I was reminded then, just like I'm reminded now, that no matter our sex, our salary, our situation, we are all Americans.

Those were scary days and, for some of my fellow patriots, the worst of days. Moms, dads, sons, daughters, husband, wives, friends and siblings were lost. Gone then, now and forever.

Some parents are shielding their kids from these images, those days, that terrible true-life story. But not me, man. My five- and seven-year-olds are old enough to know that bad things happen, that everyone is not their friend and that there are things adults can't fix. They are old enough, in their mother's estimation, to begin to learn that we're all in this together. We all feel sadness, we all cry.

They may have grown up a little bit more today. And so did I. But we also grew in love and in appreciation for each other. I won't let this crazy world make me forget to spend those precious minutes on the morning snuggle, to offer my open arms to misbehaving children, to mother up in my role as chief character builder, even when the lessons are hard.

Now, an hour past the bedtime I've decided I really should adopt, I'm signing off. On this tenth anniversary and always, may God bless the USA.

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