What I said: Why don’t you play in the backyard.
What they heard: Why don’t you pick every bloomin’ flower.
What I got: Every bloomin’ flower.
What they said: This is how much we love you.
There was a mother living overseas with her young boys. An older woman visited and, during the course of their conversation, the young boys trampled through the flower beds as they played. The older woman commented on this in a disapproving manner, to which the mother replied, “I’m growing boys, not flowers.”
I don’t actually remember where I first read this story (if you are familiar with it, PLEASE refresh my memory), but I remember where I was: in college, sitting alone in a chapel as I was prone to doing in between classes. After reading this story, I asked God to bless me with children one day and to teach me more of love.
So tonight, as my (dirty, stinky) boys ran from the garden with fist-fulls of flowers, my first response was panic. These poor flowers! I’m pretty sure their brave petals bloomed just today, and now they’re plucked up! I didn’t tell the boys they could do this! They didn’t ask permission!! What will the neighbors think? Where will I put them (the flowers, not the neighbors)? I only have one vase! Why don’t I have more vases???
And then I remembered the mother’s story and my prayer, and my panic melted into gratefulness. Instead of looking at all my fears, I looked at two sweaty boys beaming with pride. I could see two boys who were breathlessly happy to give me this gift. And in that moment I was able to receive it with gratitude.
As we began to place the flowers in beer mugs and wine glasses and my one crystal vase (that has been sitting on a shelf since my wedding), I started thinking about a quote I read today. It was from a father who adopted his son from Ethiopia. He and his wife had 2 biological children at the time and were still under the impression- nay, delusion- that parents are in control.
It seemed to me then that every choice I made could and would forever determine not only what sort of lives my kids would have but who they would forever be. My life felt more complicated than it does now- not because it actually was more complicated but because I was convinced that my every action could, if properly executed, ensure that my children would lead lives of unending good fortune and success. My life felt complicated and burdensome because I was trying to carry more than anyone really could. I was, in many ways, like a man complaining about how heavy his car is, because he’s trying to lift it instead of just getting in and driving.
The name of the book is More Love (Less Panic): 7 Lessons I Learned About Life, Love, and Parenting After We Adopted Our Son from Ethiopia. Though I’m only on page 10, Claude Knobler’s words have hit home and it may quickly become my new go-to book for parenting support!
What does love look like when it’s free from panic and fear? Free from those fears of “Am I doing it right?” or “What will they think?” or “What will happen next?” or “How badly am I messing them up?” (a thought I had this morning when the YMCA childcare called me out of the class I was teaching to tell me that my daughter was wearing a lovely dress. And no panties.)
More love and less panic. More time going with the flow and being fully in the present moment and less time obsessing over those fears that creep into our minds and keep us from loving more fully.
No doubt it will be a lifetime of discovering what more love and less panic looks like. But I think I got a glimpse of it tonight as two dirty, stinky boys came running to their mom with fists-fulls of freshly-plucked flowers from the garden. Not afraid of her response or if they did it right. Just wanting to offer a gift in love.