Recently, Pete, age 4, had a sleepover at our St Paul apartment. This was a true rite of passage for him, as he had never stayed overnight away from home without his big sister. He talked about the coming event for days and was more and more excited as we drove to the building. We settled in quickly, setting up his new sleeping bag on the living room floor and unpacking his suitcase. He prepared well for his overnight, packing not only his pajamas and dragon slippers and clothes for the next day, but also selecting items that would provide security: books and a book light (Maybe his most prized possession.), his buddy Curious George, a flashlight, and one of his little blankets from when he was a baby--something he hasn't used for a very long time.
He expressed concern that he would be sleeping alone in the living room, but accepted my explanation that he sleeps alone in his own bedroom at home and Mom and Dad sleep in another room. He had a hard time falling asleep, but he didn't cry or call for me, and eventually, he slept all night. He did it.
Childhood is so full of challenges. We adults think we have it tough, but just think about everything a baby has to learn and conquer in the first years. Pete seems to be in another time of making big leaps. He's mastered potty training (for the most part!) and knows his letters and numbers and now wants to learn how to read. He wants playmates, for his mother, father, and sister are not quite enough. He goes to speech therapy class and is doing so well, catching up with all he has to communicate to the world.
There are bound to be some bumps along the way. Some meltdowns. Some resistance. But he's doing it and now he knows he can survive and even have fun sleeping away from home. And he lived to tell the tale.
I think about my father. My mother died almost nine years ago. Much of his working life has been away from home, and he is comfortable being by himself in a hotel room, but being home alone was new for him. Mom didn't travel without him and with rare exception, when she was in the hospital following the births of we three children or much later when she was recovering from colon surgery, when he was home, she was there, too. But these last nine years he has adapted and handled that challenge. Yes, there have been some bumps along the way. Some meltdowns. Some resistance. But he's doing it, and he knows he can survive and live his life well. He has lived to tell the tale.
I like what Stephanie Dowrick says about courage, referring to a friend, in her book Choosing Happiness, Life and Soul Essentials, "Extending rather than changing herself, she will discover that the courage she believes she needs can be found as she dares to act more courageously even if the old fears are present. In other words, she doesn't need to find courage in order to make change. In fact, my experience is that the contrary is true: as we make whatever change is needed, we also gain courage. (p.36)
Peter and my father inspire me. They inspire me to extend myself and face new challenges. New ways of living--sometimes unexpected, unwanted, but even ones we think we want are not always easily managed. There will be bumps along the way. I will meltdown now and then. I will resist, But I'll do it. I will survive. And I will have a richer life because of it. And I will live to tell the tale.