Last night was revolutionary for me. It wasn’t a sermon or teaching or book or conversation that broke through the edges of my heart.
It was a dirty rope swing in the middle of the woods. And a little one year old girl.
My aunt & uncle are building a house on some property way out in the forest. As they build, they’ve created a ‘forest adventure playground’ (as we told Hunter last night) for their nine year old daughter to explore. They invited us out yesterday evening to play and run and be free.
The crowning achievement of the playground is the rope swing. Hung at least 30 feet in the air, its launching pad is a sawed off tree stump which, when jumped off of whips the rider through the air, following the downward slope of the forest until, at the peak of the upward momentum, you swear that toes are touching treetops (okay, not THAT high but we brushed branches for sure!).
So obviously we tried it out.
Hunter confidently told me he would try it ‘another day, Mom’ and was content pushing the empty swing with all his might and rolling down the hill after it. That meant it was all for me.
After a few glorious, wind-filled flights of my own, it was time for Madison to try it out. I strapped her into the Ergo on my chest and we climbed through the ropes and settled on to the wooden seat.
This kid. The one that pulled my patience and stretched my emotions and crumpled my parenting prowess and pushed me teetering to the edge of emotional sanity and had me give up over and over again.
This kid. The laughter. The smile. The shriek of joy. The gasping as we swung back towards her brother, her little hand popping out to reach towards him and her fingers stretching to brush his arm. And the cringe of her body inwards towards me as we took off again, up up up up, towards the sky, higher and higher. She folded herself into me, every part of her body melting into mine, then threw her head back to look up at the sky. Red cheeks. Watery eyes. Hair stuck straight out. Life.
Pure freedom. Pure closeness. Pure joy.
As we swung and spun and flew, it was like the essence of this tiny human suddenly made sense. In the most liberating, emotional, take-your-breath-away experience of riding this swing, there was a sense of intense closeness and connection and attachment and ‘don’t-let-me-go-i-need-you-hold-on-with-your-life’ desperation.
She is independent. She makes her own way. She is silly and determined and knows how it needs to be.
Yet she clings. And begs ‘Up!’ all day long. And finds safety in the perch of the crook of my arm, digging her fingers into my shoulder and squeezing her legs around my waist.
A soaring spirit and a grounded heart.
On the upward arc I leaned back and caught her gaze and saw the sparkle and joy and life in those two wide, soft, blue eyes. And I crumbled.
All those cold places inside me. The ones that have pushed away so much of her tiny individuality because I just.don’t.understand.what.she.needs. The corners of my soul that have cried out for something to change. Make her different! Make her more like me! Oh, God. The rhythm of the swing matched the repentece of my heart as unspoken prayers of confession flowed from my soul.
Higher into the trees we swung, racing towards earth and then launching to the heavens again.
I held her tight. Tighter than I ever have before. Realizing that this – THIS – this is what she needs.
Someone to be right there beside her as she pushes those limits and soars towards the clouds and tries the edges of emotion and leaps into the unknown. Arms to hold her close as the wind of change whips around her. A heart to beat close to hers as adventure and fear and time and space call her name. A mouth to whisper, ‘I’m here. It’s okay. We are scared. Feel the emotions.’ Ears to listen to her laugh, cry, shriek, cry, giggle, and inhale the cold whipping air.
She needs me.
Even when I don’t know what to do.
Even when she pushes and resists.
Even when I’ve tried everything.
Right now. At this moment. She needs me.
For over half an hour we swung. Cold, wind-whipped, and short of breath we finally swung slower, then stopped.
More alive, more connected, more us than we ever had been before.