I remember the Indigo Girls’ song with its lines, “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable but lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I wonder if what we hear is a matter of attention. I wonder if my focus, if our focus, gets pulled to the darkness, fed by the 24-hour news cycle; these bombings, those homicides; that scandal; this protest. Maybe choosing where we focus can help us in the tension between darkness and light. I also wonder what would happen if I turn my attention, on purpose, to lightness. Here I go:
I am babysitting. All three grandchildren have had their raucous playtime in the tub. My two-year-old granddaughter had insisted on wearing her swim goggles before, during and after the bath, bobbing her head under the water, popping up saying, “I swim, Susu. I swim.” Her four-year-old twin brothers ask me again and again for what they call my “magic sleeping lotion” which I have brought to them in Massachusetts from Maine, a tiny tub of Badger’s Nighty-Night Chamomile and Bergamot paste that they smear all over their bath-reddened cheeks, saying, “Mmmmm. Susu, smell me, smell me.”
I put my granddaughter in her crib in her nursery down the hall, then take the twins to the reading nook in their bedroom. We’ve read Thomas the Train and Mr. Magee Goes Camping twice each. We’ve played the end-of-the-day game: “My favorite part of the day is….” One twin says his favorite part of the day was that he was in the car when Daddy picked Susu up at the bus station and, “I got to say, “Boo.” I don’t remind him that was yesterday, told him I loved that part of the day too. The other twin’s favorite part of his day was playing with his brother, calling each other from opposite sides of the back yard. We do final hugs and kisses, I turn the lights out, close the door just the right amount, which takes some major negotiating, and go downstairs to put dinner dishes away, fold laundry and organize stacks of wooden blocks.
I hear the boys partying, jumping on their beds, laughing. I go to their door to listen. One of them says, “Here, you take Turtle.” He throws it to his brother, who says, ‘Ok. You take Bunny and the lovey. I don’t want this lovey.” Now they are rolling around, out of their beds, on the floor giggling. I hear their younger sister cry, “me, me.” I know she’ll never get to sleep with this ruckus because she wants to be with her brothers. Sometimes we call them “the triplets.”
I tiptoe into the boys’ room and whisper, forefinger to my lips, trying not to laugh at the pile of stuffed animals now strewn all over their carpet. I say, “Hey, guys, it’s really time to get in your beds. It’s really time to go to sleep.”
The one-minute-younger twin says, “Hey, Susu, it’s ok. We’re just talkin’ ’bout silly things.”
Maybe after all, depending on where we place our attention, lightness has a call that is not so hard to hear. So, I’ve paid attention to the children. Kids color outside the lines because they haven’t yet learned about holding themselves in, making themselves small. Kids think outside the box because they don’t see a tight container. Kids take up space without apologizing for it. Writing stories like this for my soon-to-be-published new book helps me remember to turn to the light.
Susan Lebel Young, retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher is the author of three books. Her latest is Grandkids as Gurus: Lessons for Grownups. You can learn more at www.susanlebelyoung.com or from Sue at email@example.com.