Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas, 2008

I suspect that most of us don't really deal with innocence on a daily basis. There is an aspect to innocence that undermines the way our minds work; the layers that can both deepen and destroy our relationships. Motives and our mindsets color everything we do. It's a function of Christmas that for a time, at least, we're a little more conscious of the things that we really should be all year round.
I've been thinking of Christmas in terms of Emma this year. She's been watching a Christmas Sesame Street video all year as part of her large rotation of DVD's; we've been party to the theme right along with her. I don't have the slightest clue what her understanding of Christmas or birthdays or any other special occasions might be, other than the fact that she loves a party and loves to open presents. She does not appear to suffer from envy or want; there is never disappointment in what is unwrapped - in fact, the unwrapping can be the best part. It also follows that one can't really predict with any success which toy or book will capture her interest - there is no pressure, then, to provide the latest, most interactive Elmo, she prefers one that she can manipulate over one that performs for her.
There's no anticipation, either. It's mostly just keeping her from the tree until the prescribed day. This frustration, for all of us, is just another facet of her innocence, albeit her perhaps not-so-innocent drive to get to the goods.
What it all means is that our Christmas happens in the moment, not so much in all of the trappings and greater meaning that it otherwise implies for the rest of us. Living with Emma - engaging with her in discipline, play, meals, etc. means more in the here and now. Lessons are not always learned the first, second, ninety-eth time. Joys can also be had, over and over again, too, in ways that don't seem to grow old like they often do for those more sophisticated. Certainly, there is reinforcement and relationship. It's just different. This has been my learning and gift, this year, from her.
I deal with Emma's innocence on a daily basis. Realizing this has, I hope, changed the way that I've dealt with who she is. It is frustrating to still be changing diapers, but there is still a cheering demonstration from us when she chooses to use the potty. It's frustrating to pick up her stuff off the floor, at least once a day, and I will probably be muttering to myself every time I do it for some time to come, but she's helping to set the table and often tries to help in ways that she can. My times of anger turned her way are inevitably shamed by her innocence, and I'm taken to a place where I have to examine why I am the way I am. It's just the way it is.
She's no angel. She has her schemes, and, like any parent, it's my job to subvert them and somehow channel them into opportunities for advancement. She's capable of getting into the kitchen and fixing herself a snack. Fortunately, she's innocent enough not to be quiet about it, and is usually caught in the act, banished to the family room, and forced to ask for it. It is also fortunate that none of her snack-making involves using the stove, and the microwave is (at least so far) out of reach. Innocence can be, and often is, dangerous.
She also still loves to run into my arms. Her giggles when I tickle her or chase her around the house make up for an awful lot. She loves to dance with me, and I love to dance with her because she has no idea how goofy I look.
That she will probably remain this way, in some extent, means that I will be faced with this sort of introspection for the rest of my days. Her promise is one of perpetual honesty, too, a gift that should not be overlooked.
Innocence. Purity. Joy. Promise. Love. They are the themes of the season. Just as it was, so long ago, they existed in the midst of personal struggle, societal upheaval, and great uncertainty for the future. In the moment, though, there is great joy to be had in the face and heart of the innocents. That we could all enjoy the day thus will be my wish for all of us, this Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas!