There was a great tragedy in my family the other day. It came suddenly, while I was sitting at the kitchen table and my kids were playing outside. The idyllic quiet of early evening in the country was jarringly broken by my daughter’s hysterical scream.
I jumped up and, heroically abandoning the Facebook post I was working on, ran outside to save the day. But I was too late.
As I followed my son’s finger pointing up high into the darkening azure sky, I saw a faint speck growing smaller and smaller, and I understood my daughter’s pain.
Her balloon, Balloony as she so creatively named it, was making a frenetic escape to the stratosphere. As my daughter fell apart in my arms, I knew life would never be the same, unless I was able to find the other identical balloon that was somewhere in our house.
I had a faint idea of the existence of the renegade balloon’s twin, but the half-hearted attempt to find it was woefully insufficient and, due to the sedative effectiveness of the animated baby animals dancing on the TV, I soon traded that chore for more the more pressing and productive task of preparing the bedtime accoutrements.
As I lay in bed soothing my emotionally wounded little girl, she opened her floodgates of loss, expanding beyond the scope of the escaped balloon. “When is our dog going to die?” she pensively asked.
Fortunately I am an experienced and prepared parent, so I was able to give her the answer she needed to rebuild her fragile psyche. “I don’t know,” I replied, and with that cleared up she soon fell into her slumber.
The pain she felt over the loss of her balloon was real, as much as I may joke about it. I felt the depth of her pain through the anguished cries and emotionally charged declarations of never ever owning another balloon as long as life itself existed. I too have known loss, and it sucks.
Ah, but redemption came early this morning in the form of a photo my loving and far more capable wife sent me. My darling little girl, who had so steadfastly declared her recently imposed lifelong abstinence of balloon ownership, was proudly and ecstatically showing off the fugitive balloon’s estranged twin. All was right with the world.
Kids are so simple when they’re this young, and I love that about them. The grief, the joy, the frustration, the glee, the emotions they feel are all-encompassing and felt without analysis. Her world was rocked by the loss of that balloon, and there was no coming back from such a profoundly tragic incident. Until her world was righted again, and there was no longer any evidence of tragedy.
This ability to change with circumstances, to adapt oneself so completely and readily without thinking about it at all, is an incredible display of resilience. This is part of the miracle of childhood. Once we’ve grown and become set in our ways and our modes of thought, this resilience becomes far less pliable, disintegrating our ability to adapt and overcome.
Kids live in the present. Whatever is happening right now is what is important, and anything on either side of now is irrelevant. While this may not be absolutely true, it is a fantastic lesson for us stodgy adults who shift between reminiscing over the past and perseverating over the future.
Live in the now. Sure, you lost your balloon and it hurts. Feel that pain, live in that pain, express with great and boisterous emotion the hurt you feel. When the new balloon comes into your life, feel the joy, express the glee, scream out the ecstasy that overwhelms you. People might think you’re weird. When’s the last time you saw a three-year-old worry that people would think she’s weird?