The Kids Are Alright

It’s hard not to feel as if the world’s on the brink of collapse these days. Five minutes of the evening news is enough to warrant Zantac. It doesn’t help that I write on policy (among other things), and so I am often online digesting politics with my morning cereal.

Guess what? Politics doesn’t naturally lead to gratitude. Who knew.

Right now, people seem inscrutable, rhetoric is flammable, the world looks combustible. But these kids of mine, they put everything in perspective.

My darling kids, the ones with developing body odor and dirty rooms and expertise in sibling attack strategies a la Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. They are a respite from everything upside down, and is the case with kids, they’re often unaware of their own wisdom (except for Grace, who thinks she knows everything). So it pays to listen close.

Every Friday, Jesse is given a worksheet asking the same questions: “What was your ‘high’ of the week, and what was your ‘low’ of the week?” A simple little exercise in reason and writing. But as invasive as it sometimes seems (because, what if he says “my low is that mommy yelled at me” or worse, “I’ve made the unfortunate discovery that she doesn’t actually know what she’s doing”), I have come to love this slip of paper in his folder. It means someone has made him stop and take stock of his life.

Jesse’s teacher hands him the worksheet. But it is God that asks the questions. “Here, Jesse. Here’s your spot in the universe. What do you think?”

A pause is sometimes all it takes for gratitude to sprout, and to discover that everything’s not wrong—but right.

Maybe, because I am a bit of a pessimist, or at any given moment on the verge of a full-on freak out, I’m sure I could list a bunch of lows. Jesse however, because he understands good things right away without the complication of grown-up questions like “why” or “how,” always has more highs than lows. A lot more.

Take this week’s worksheet:

“My ‘high’ of the week: We have jim [gym], I am going to Lockis [Lucas’] pardee [party], we have a football gam [game], my other friend is coming over, we get to plays [play].”

(Side note: have you actually opened your spelling notebook this year, Jesse?)

“My ‘low’ of the week: I wock op [woke up] at 6:30” He can’t spell “woke,” but knows how to notate time. But also, mornings right? I FEEL you, kid.

Once, when Noah was a toddler and speech was rare, we stood together on a cold Saturday looking out the window. From out of the gray appeared a flash of red – a cardinal who lighted on the branch in front of us. Noah’s body vibrated with excitement.

“BURD!” he hollered. “BURD! BURD!”

The rest of the world didn’t cloud his view of things. He had no concept of hardship or discord or political fault lines. Just wonder. Just gratitude. Just a bird on the wing that made him jump with excitement at the thrill of seeing something wonderful.

When life seems overrun with burdens – even the burdens of caring for a child with special needs—try asking one of yours what their “highs” and “lows” are. Chances are, once you turn off the news, you’ll find the kids—and everything else—are alright.

“God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!”
- Robert Browning

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