“What are we doing today?”
Teddy – my four-year old – likes to ask this question each morning. He likes to know the plan for the day. He likes to know whether it is a swimming lesson day or a preschool day or a church day. He likes to know what’s coming. He likes to be prepared.
This isn’t surprising. He is his mother’s son after all.
Today is Wednesday, which means that today is gymnastics day. Then again, almost every day is gymnastics day for Teddy. Nearly every day is Somersault Day.
I have never met a kid who loves somersaults as much as Teddy. I mean he REALLY loves them. You can always tell how happy he’s feeling on any particular day by the frequency of his somersaults. The rest of us might be watching television together or reading a story or playing a game, and Teddy will be doing somersault after somersault after somersault.
He does somersaults in the middle of the family room, at the park, on the sidewalk, in piles of leaves, on the stairs, in bed. And when there isn’t enough space for a full somersault, he’ll just do a kind of half-somersault and linger upside down, on his head for a while. He’ll do this half-somersault-headsit-thing just about anywhere too. On the couch, at the dinner table, and even at football games. Sometimes he gets so happy and so caught up in the moment and so into all of the somersaulting that he just loses himself. He forgets where he is or what he’s doing. He is utterly consumed by the somersaults.
Last Sunday morning, the four of us were enjoying a somewhat lazy Sunday morning at home. We had nowhere to be and nothing to do. Matt and Jackson were playing Wii in the basement. I was running (okay, mostly walking) on the treadmill (i.e. the Devil Machine) next to them. Teddy was doing some puzzles, looking at books and, well, somersaulting.
He was so caught up in his somersaulting, so in the moment that he forgot where he was and he somersaulted right off of the couch. And onto the moving treadmill.
There I was walking and walking and walking and the next thing I know – BAM! – something (or rather someone) was behind me stuck between the back of the moving treadmill and the wall.
Now, ordinarily I find falls to be extremely (and, yes, inappropriately) funny, but even I knew that this was serious.
“WAH!” I shrieked and jumped off the treadmill. I stared at the Devil Machine for a few minutes and tried to figure out what I should do. Should I try to grab Teddy? Should I press stop? DAMMIT, where is that BIG RED STOP button?
There are certain people who can calmly and efficiently handle an emergency, people who know what to do and how do it and then go do it, people who are the picture of grace under pressure.
I am NOT one of those people. Obviously.
By the time I actually pressed the stop button, Matt had leaped onto the treadmill – the STILL MOVING TREADMILL – to try to rescue Teddy. Well, because the treadmill was STILL MOVING, he wasn’t able to get Teddy off and, instead, he lay there serving as a protective barrier between the Devil Machine and scared little Teddy.
“I pressed stop! I pressed stop! I don’t know why it’s not stopping!” I shrieked. “WAH! WAH! What should I do?!?! WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?!”
Like I said, I am NOT one of those grace-under-pressure people.
Jackson – my just-turned-eight-year-old – jumped into action and unplugged the Devil Machine. (Honestly, this thought had never occurred to me.) Matt lay on the treadmill hugging Teddy tight. I stood by, staring.
When the treadmill eventually came to a stop, there was complete silence for a few minutes as we all sifted through the aftermath. Matt and Teddy lay in the fetal position on the treadmill pinned against the wall. There was a hole in the wall where Matt’s elbow had hit when he dove to save his son. Jackson ran upstairs to get a few Band-Aids.
After Matt and Teddy lifted themselves off of the Devil Machine, we examined their wounds. Teddy had emerged unscathed. Matt, on the other hand, had a pretty good chunk of skin removed from his ankle. Jackson passed out Band-Aids.
And all I could think was: popcorn kernel.
Last weekend, when I was at the Storyline Conference, Glennon Doyle Melton (of Momastery fame) and Shauna Niequist talked about where they find inspiration. Shauna talked about always looking, searching, and noticing. Glennon talked about collecting popcorn kernels throughout the day, putting them in her pocket, and then looking at them later to see what bigger thing they might pop into.
And this situation – the somersaulting, the Devil Machine, the rescue, and the Band-Aids – was definitely a popcorn kernel.
This kernel could pop into several things, I suppose. And if I were a little more enlightened, a bit more creative, and much less tired, I might be able to come up with something profound and illuminating and witty. But we work with what we’ve got, right? And the thing that this kernel keeps popping into for me is:
First, how amazing and special and miraculous and powerful it is to find that THING that brings us so much joy – whether it’s somersaults or art or music or scrapbooking or reading or hiking or writing – that we just lose ourselves in it sometimes, that we forget where we are and what we’re doing because we are just so happy to be doing it. And how brave it is to keep doing THAT THING even with all of the risks and challenges and moving Devil Machines that get in the way.
And second, if we are going to be brave enough to DO THAT THING that brings us so much joy, how important it is to have someone who loves us and watches out for us, someone who will help us manage the risks and will dive onto moving Devil Machines keep us from getting hurt. And how nice it is to have someone nearby who will bring us Band-Aids.
Don’t forget about the Band-Aids.