Kaylin and I decided one hot summer afternoon to take a walk. My need to stretch my legs often coincides well with her frustration that she can't play in the backyard while Daddy mows. She climbs voluntarily into the stroller, suggesting we go to the park, and we take off down the road.
Walking with a two year old can be a challenge in and of itself. Complicating our walks is the fact that I am directionally challenged. If I go with my gut, we're usually okay. But if I try to reason out which way to turn, I inevitably end up going the wrong direction. I mention this only because by the time the playground was in sight, I was ready to turn around and go back. Kaylin, on the other hand, was jabbering about the slides.
I had cut across the unoccupied soccer field hoping to save a few steps only to find it was quite rough pushing her in the stroller. As we were a considerable distance from the street, I decided it was safe to turn her loose. I realized immediately how much faster excited two-year olds are than their tired 43 year old grandmothers.
I have the advantage that Kaylin is a well-behaved child. She ran first to the toddler slide. She carefully climbed the three steps and slid down the shute. Then she looked up at me. I said "Show Grandma what you want to do next." She giggled and began to run from one place to the other, trying everything within her reach.
She didn't stop long enough to take a breath until she found the loose-link metal ladder. A great activity for a six year old. A potential invitation to injury for a two year old. I took a deep breath. She looked up at me again. I nodded and stepped closer. She put one foot on the first rung, rocked back and forth, and then went on to the next attraction.
There is at least one such moment during each of our visits. Kaylin steps to the line and looks to me to see what I'll say. I'm sure an argument could be made she's just trying to figure out how far I'll let her go. She's a two year old, right? Two year olds are testing the boundaries of life in general because that's what being two is all about. Besides, she's with her "Away" Grandmother; the grandmother who isn't quite up on the rules.
All that logical reasoning aside, the looks Kaylin and I exchange are based on something that goes much deeper for me. When faced with the choice, I purposely, with sincere support, always encourage my granddaughter to go for it.
My reason for encouraging Kaylin is a simple one. I talk to women. I love to gather around a table with other forty-something women, coffee cups in hand, and talk about what we are discovering about ourselves. Over and over, I hear the same words.
"I just figured out last year... "
For a long time, such phrases brought to my mind the regret of misplaced time. All the years of trying to wear the wrong shoes, going in the wrong direction, following someone else's dream, trying to live out someone else's life. For years I thought it was just me, but table gathered women have taught me my life wasn't much different from anyone else's. We got encouragement only when we were doing what someone else thought was the "right" thing.
Now, armed with some serious life experience, we take up the task of encouraging each other, and ourselves. By baring our souls, turning the events of our lives over and over, we are sifting through our own history - mining for our Self in the experiences of our lives.
I described a recent telephone conversation with a friend at my last table gathering. The call had started out with a sobbing description of a painful discovery. Unrequited love. The loss of a dream. After a sharing of mournful words, my friend said " ...it has finally hit me that what I'm probably learning here is I shouldn't settle for anything less than what I really want." My heart jumped for joy for my friend. "Hallelujah!" my table gathering friends said when I shared my story. My friend, you see, is a generation behind us. "Progress!" we shout.
Forty-something women realize there comes a moment in each life which, if recognized and acted upon, can change that life forever. We know this because we've seen those moments in our lives. We often mourn our collection of moments when we just plain didn't get it, when we went on with our misdirected lives not realizing it could be different.
We realize too that the passage of time has blessedly given us a gift. We have the opportunity now to be present at those moments in the lives of others. We know it is not for us to make the decision. We cannot stick our hands in the water and pull out the stone. Each woman must mine for her own Self. But we can, through the Power of Presence, keep the lights on so she doesn't have to mine in the dark. We can bolster the courage needed to take up the search. We can whisper well-placed words, the ones that will echo in a woman's heart when the difficult choices come, when the moments of choice present themselves. The words that will help keep her in touch with her own search for her Self.
That's why, on this hot afternoon, I am standing on top of the platform in front of the biggest slide this park has to offer. It wasn't my idea. I had to race behind my granddaughter to stay close enough to keep her safe as she climbed up the ladder.
"Now" I ask "just exactly what is this?"
She looks at it, the way it twists in a circle all the way to the ground. "I want to do it."
"This is very high. I should probably do this with you."
by Barbara Hampton
Barb Hampton is a lady who wears many hats. In fact, she has so many hats that she carries a hat rack with her at all times. She describes herself as: Wife and Companion, Assistant Trust Officer, Empress, Grandmother, Mother, Friend, Minister, and Writer, although not necessarily in that order. "My goal is to be more than a figment of my imagination."
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