Wrong Size

Yesterday was Alex’s first day back to preschool for the beginning of the summer school session.  {can you hear the Hallelujah Chorus playing??}  I love, love, love that bunny, but we have come to learn over these last four years, that he and I, two stubborn, strong-willed Taurus babies, do much better with a little separation.  Makes our time together all the sweeter.

Needless to say, I’d set out a few button up shirt options for him.  I usually let him choose what he wants to wear, but after Sunday’s night’s ensemble choice (see below), I knew giving him a few suggestions might be advantageous.

snazzy, eh?

My amazing neighbor was visiting, giving me a little pep talk for the week ahead of single parenting.  I talked in yesterday’s post about hiding the reality of our children at points, and yet, Jeanne, our neighbor, is subjected to the Goughs in all of our reality.  Back at camp, it was Myrna.  Poor woman.  She even shared a wall with us.  Alex received the nickname of “Thunderfoot” back then.

Alex was in his room getting dressed and behind closed doors started calling for me to come in and help him button up his shirt.  I encouraged him to just come out and I’d assist him in the dining room where we were feeding Drew and chatting.  VERY unlike him, he resisted and insisted I come to him.

It was then that I realized I’d given him one of Drew’s 9 month old button up shirts.  Alex is four, in case you’ve forgotten, and already wears many size 5 shirts and pants.  This button up shirt wasn’t even in the “belly shirt” category.  It was almost cutting off his arm circulation and had I attempted to button it, would have created a cartoon-like production of buttons popping off, giving me a black eye.  With a good dose of laughter we managed to peel it off and find something that fit a bit better.

As I seek to live into and tell my story, I find myself unknowingly doing this same thing so often.  Trying to fit my square peg self into a round peg hole.  Attempting to squeeze into the mold that someone else has chosen for me, all the while thinking, “This just doesn’t fit no matter how much I hold my breath and hide.”

Even though the new shirt we chose fit Alex and we all made it to the school on time and in one piece, it can be hard to enter into a new story.  He started off in his new classroom yesterday, the 4 year old room, Fantasyland.  He knew the teachers, but not another soul in the class.  My usually outgoing kid was a bit clingy and shy.  His buddy was in another class and similarly felt a little out of her element.  I know they’ll both be fine and clearly, will have MANY more playdates and adventures together.  But taking on a new setting and place in hard.

If you’ve read many of my past posts, you know that I am trying to live into a new setting.  Not just location, but professionally.  Being a stay-at-home mom.  Many days, especially when I dropped Matt off at the airport on Sunday, I look at myself in the mirror and seriously question whomever thought I was responsible enough to be left alone with two children.  Felt the same way leaving the hospital with Alex, the classic, “Where’s the instruction manual?” or “Wait….you’re discharging me NOW?  And I’m taking home THAT….in the car seat?  And you’re not coming home with us to help, Nurse?”

And yet, maybe half the battle is just to enter in and do it!  To drive the car home from the hospital, screaming infant and all.  To walk into the new classroom, grab your nametag and find something to engage with and just start playing.  To put on the shirt that actually fits, but may be new and unworn and unfamiliar.  To embrace a new identity, live in it fully, mistakes and all.  And to know when to admit defeat, ask for help taking off that which binds.

Can’t help but think of Eustace in the most beautiful, heart-wrenching scene found in Chapter 7 of CS Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader….

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it – if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells – like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –”

“Dressed you. With his paws?”

“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

“No. It wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund.

“Why not?”

“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been – well, un-dragoned, for another.”

“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.

“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

Help us, dear Lord, have the courage to be un-dragoned.  To let YOU be the one to help us let go of that which seems so much a part of us and so impossible to release.  May we live into the baptism of your grace…

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