Sunday, October 19, 2008

This little light of mine...

"Hey, what is he still doing out? It's not his turn!" was Sadia's response as she witnessed the moon prominently displayed in the sky during daylight hours.

Of course I was tickled by her comment, so I asked her what she meant. I am paraphrasing, but basically she reasoned that since it was day time, the moon had no right being in the sky. After all, it was the sun's turn, yet the moon was stealing the sun's spotlight (no pun intended).

She was adamant and unrelenting in making her case. The teacher in me wanted to seize this teachable moment. I wanted to transition the conversation into a gentle science lesson about the sun's light reflecting off of the moon. I wanted to tell her that the moon was always there in the sky during the "sun's turn", and explain that the reason she could see the moon more prominently was because of the relationship between the sun's radiation and our atmosphere. However, after a second thought, I decided that the conversation would be much more interesting if I let her do all of the talking. I felt led to let her process this mystery out loud. In other words, I stepped out of the teacher role and assumed the role of a student.

I listened as she grappled with the perplexing image of the sun and moon occupying the same space at the same time. This image was in stark contrast to the concepts she had learned about the sun and moon through depictions in story books. Her brain shifted into overdrive as she worked to retrieve one file after another searching for anything that would help to crack the code to this mystery. She had diligently committed so much about the sun and moon to memory thanks to reading books like "Goodnight Sun, Hello Moon". Listening to her process helped me in realizing more than just my daughter's new understanding about the sun and moon's relationship.

The matter that Sadia really confronted was the issue of fairness. In all of the children's literature Sadia encountered, the rules were clear: The sun was to occupy the sky in the day, while the moon would occupy the sky at night. To her, it didn't seem fair for the moon to intrude the sky when it was the sun's turn to shine. After all, the moon is already king of the night; that's twelve whole hours full of lighting up the sky. Now, here "he" was infringing on the sun's glory, and that wasn't "thair" by any stretch of the imagination!*****

She continued in verbalizing her angst. The more she struggled, the more I began to see deeper issues which came to the surface. It became apparent that Sadia was working through her own feelings brought on by the new dynamic emerging from the relationship between she and her newly mobile little sister. In many ways Simone, who these days gets into everything, has been for Sadia what the moon was to the sun in that instant--like an unwelcomed visitor.

Sadia loves her little sister dearly, but is growing weary of constantly having to defend her toys. She is vigilantly on the look out for grabby hands and nosey fingers. In fact, I affectionately refer to Sadia as the "Reposesor" in reference to her time spent snatching her things from Simone's possession. This cycle of overemphasizing the negatives can easily spiral out of control for Sadia, resulting in her developing an unhealthy perception of her sister.

After Sadia finished expressing her frustration, I empathized with her by restating her concerns. "Sadia, you're right. It isn't fair for the moon to break the rules." I pointed out that in spite of the moon, the sun still shown as brightly as it had the day before. I also tried shifting her focus to the beauty and rarity of witnessing both the sun and moon shining so brightly in the sky at the same time. This nuance was simply overlooked in Sadia's quest for fairness. While my sentiments were intended to encourage my daughter, the message like a mirror reflected a concept that all too often escapes me.

Sometimes I become too entangled with the idea of fairness. In my marriage for instance, my husband sometimes cuts in on my perception of right and wrong. When he's sitting at the table waiting to be served, while I'm standing at the stove preparing a meal, I find myself thinking things like, "Can't he see me slaving over a hot stove," or "Why doesn't he offer to set the table." And so I find myself keeping mental score, so that at the end of the day everything balances out.

These thoughts make me uncomfortable, because they remind me a lot of the way my sisters and I would argue as children. The reality is that the need for fairness doesn't just disappear as we get older. If we're not careful for some of us, this cleaving to the unshakable drive to level life's playing field becomes a crusade.

The reality is that relationships are not always 50/50. In fact, they never are. Sadly, my rigid thinking does not always allow me the flexibility to welcome this subtlety, because it means that the give and take between husband and wife is sometimes more like 80/20 or 40/60. It means that --yes-- sometimes the work load will shift unfairly more in my direction than his (and vise versa). It means that sometimes, his ways will intrude on my space (which is not all together good, or bad). And sometimes it means that in an effort to balance the scorecard an inevitable and unrealistic paradigm gets cemented, where the "you didn'ts" will always outweigh the "you dids".

In light of what I learned from listening to my three year old, and in spite of the moon's inclination to intrude on the sun's space from time to time, I have come to this conclusion: There is no sense pursuing fairness; it is a quest which proves to be futile. Life is never and will never be "fair". Thus, in relationships energy is best spent focusing on the compliment of a changing dynamic and the possibilities of a new perspective. Instead of taking account of the wrongs, try instead shifting attention to the new interplay which emerges when two forces can coexist in the same space at the same time.

As it is with the sun's light, so it is also with us as we learn to live with one another: Nothing should detract from our brilliance even when sharing the spotlight.

*****Sadia gets her th sounds and f sounds mixed up sometimes, so words like freeway and fair, come out sounding like "threeway" and "thair".


The Unlikely Pastor's Wife said...

I love this post. You write so beautifully!
I am amazined that out of a simple could recognize it for being much deeper. You are so in tune with your girls.....what a great mom you are!

Lisa P said...

Fair is such a stumbling block in life. But we come SO programmed to know it, watch for it, and demand it!

Thanks for writing with such depth.

Diane Davis said...

i love your girls' minds and how you encourage them to think and feel and reason and to share.

i've missed your blog lately... good to have you back. :)

edie said...

Such a great post. I actually remember as a child having the same thoughts as Sadia, wondering why the moon was on the sun's turf. I found it so unnerving. Now I wonder why Dave has HIS foot on MY side of the bed. Also unnerving.

Seriously, though, I find that when I start thinking about fairness I experience so little joy from my relationships and it's such an easy trap. Thanks for the reminder.


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