“When will I die, Mom?”
Oskar, our four-year-old son, asks it so abruptly that I am not sure I heard him right. He looks at me, clearly waiting for an answer, after all, I am the adult in the room, I should have an answer for everything. And yet the answer I give is weak, I know it, he knows it.
“We all die some day…” he takes it in and then starts to tell me a story about school. As if I had not just dropped a huge amount of truth into his four-year-old lap that could give him nightmares for weeks to come. But to him it doesn’t. He asked a question, I provided an answer and now he has more pressing things to share. His sense of the world as a child never fails to amaze me. How can you so casually skip over the inevitability of death and go back to what is comparatively mundane; school and what you played with?
Yet, here is the lesson that my children keep teaching me. Here is the thing I wish I could be so much better at. Here is the thing that I think bears repeating; life is lived in the small stories. In the small details. Not in our worries. Not in the inevitability of time, of death. Of heartache and loss. But of searching for the small moments of joy. Of finding the moments we can enjoy so that we may sustain ourselves through the hard that we know will surround us and overwhelm us at points in our lives.
And we do this in the classroom as well. We search for the BIG moments, for the defining characteristics, we internalize our worries about the students and their perceived struggles and then forget to see them in the small increments that they present themselves at. We speak of a child in terms of their struggles and goals rather than their successes and accomplishments. We spend so much time worrying that we forget to enjoy the small. That we make big deals out of everything, and then wonder why we are exhausted.
So perhaps we all need to be more like Oskar? To recognize the large, the hard, the inevitable but then get on with life. To not harbor, to not dwell, to not let this color everything we do, but instead to find comfort in the fact that it all of these things are part of their journey. Of our journey. To know that while a child may have had a difficult day, month, or even year with us, that this is not the only thing defining them. That there will be good. That life will continue to turn sometimes despite of what is happening.
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1 thought on “In the Small Details”
This caught me off guard– in a very good way.
I was expecting this to go down a deep and dark path, with a big heavy life moment.
But you are right. Or rather your son is right. I like the analogy another author uses calling it the “Messy Middle” where we live day in and day out.