Faith snuggled against me as I lay down next to her after tucking her in. Since her infancy, I have put my youngest to sleep with bedtime stories and mommy/daughter talks about life, our day together, feelings, ideas, and most recently, stories about fairy tales, myths, parables, fables, and legends.
One benefit of being a non custodial parent is that you realize some of the most important moments with your child are not necessarily in the day-to-day things. Although I miss that part of parenting, the hours spent sitting on the sidelines of their sports events or hustling them out of bed and to school aren’t always the most formative experiences for them. Although those duties and tasks are undoubtedly a building block in the relationship bond with our children, it's the space in between those moments that is often most precious. Like a spring garden, when we stop manicuring and pruning so intensely and slow down to give life a chance to breathe is when our blooms often appear.
Tonight, Faith wanted me to tell her a fable. We've begun telling stories to each other, then taking turns guessing what the moral of it is.
“What’s a ‘moral,’ mommy?”
"You know, a lesson about what was learned and how you should live your life."
Faith patiently waits until I get to the end, knowing that I’ll be quizzing her on what the moral is. I recently shared this fable with her...
The Sun and The Wind
"Once upon a time, the Wind challenged the Sun to a contest in order to find out who was stronger. The Wind insisted that it was all powerful and wanted to prove it.
"Tell you what... " boasted the Wind, "whichever one of us can get the coat and hat off that man walking below will win." He snickered to himself, certain that his brute strength and gusts of cold air would force the man’s clothing right off his body. The Sun sat back calmly to watch the Winds' effort.
The powerful wind blew and blew. Gusts of swirling cold wind scattered leaves and tossed papers about, and made the branches of the trees bend and groan from its pressure. The man pulled his coat tighter around himself and gripped the brim of his hat, fighting off the chill and making sure he would not lose his possessions.
Soon it was obvious that for all the Wind’s boasting and angry gusts, the man's coat and hat would not budge. The more the wind blew and tried to force them off, the tighter the man clutched them to himself.
"Harrumph," said the Wind. "If I cannot make the man's coat come off, then neither can you."
The Sun smiled and didn't say a thing. Rays of light radiated downward, washing the man in heat. The man raised his face toward the Sun, and feeling the temperature rise, he took off his coat happily and removed the hat from his head, welcoming the warmth.
Faith sleepily smiled and yawned, then, as our custom, ended my story with her version of the moral:
"The wind thought it could force someone to do something, but the sun helped the man and made him feel good, so he did it on his own."
I am not with my children every day or close to as much as I’d like, and that is something I've had to live with. But what helps and seems to make it a little easier is knowing that I still have them during these times that are "the space in between." And it's those times I cherish and try to make the most of.
Hopefully when they are grown up, my warmth and love will outshine the coolness towards me that they are exposed to at their other household, and no matter where they are, we will always be connected in our hearts and minds. And their blooms will be radiant.