In my experience most children experience their lives as normal. Children are naturally self-centered, but not in the way that it would be a detriment for an adult. Childhood expert Robert Coles once wrote about the geography of childhood being small and low to the ground. You take a child to the Grand Canyon and they get excited about the lizards on the ground. The view of childhood is limited, and therefore all seems ordinary.
Whether it is growing up at your parents country store or dancing on stage with your father's band, what lies in front of you is normal. In my life both my parents were Army officers, and therefore wearing fatigues and boots was normal. So to was moving. I recall one occasion when my parents seemed to be making a big deal about telling us about our next move. Maybe they made a big deal when I was younger and I simply do not remember it. Perhaps it was a big deal for my younger sister, however for me it was as if they had told me that we would go see fireworks on the 4th of July. Not an everyday thing, but still perfectly ordinary in my life.
My lack of stage-fright and anxiety about moving is perhaps quite unusual. Most personality schemes would suggest that my comfort with moving isn't based in my childhood as much as my God given personality. Yet from years of work with families I know that moving can cause humongous anxiety. I want to share with you one terrific children's book that might help with moving anxiety in your children. It is written by Anita Lobel and titled Nini Here and There. It is the experience of a move through the eyes of a house cat, and is rather darling. Things may seem traumatic as the move begins and progresses, but the people and the love remain the same on the other side of the change. This is a lesson we all may need to remember as we wander through the trials and changes of life.
I have met fellow military 'brats' who harbor a significant deal of resentment about their mobile childhoods. I don't feel that way at all. It gave me solid skills at negotiating a new place, a lack of perfectionism about new living quarters, and a lifetime of conversation starters. It also made me really good at packing and moving; which has turned out to be a useful skill in my adulthood.
This move is not as hurried as most of my more recent adventures. It is its own long green growing time. There have already been a few months since the new call was accepted, and there is more than a month left. I have to hold myself back from packing. I like the satisfaction of a packed and taped up box. I like knowing that table linens and socks make great gap fillers. There is something lovely about a stack of packed boxes. I have a whole home and a whole life here that will not need to begin getting wrapped up for about a month. This home is my longest lifetime residence and at first I panicked. How will I get out? Do I know how to move anymore? To which the answer is, of course you can do this. The good thing about normal and ordinary is that it usually comes back to you quickly.
Now as I stare at the more than 40 days worth of clothing in my closet and think, I don't need this much for this nearly 40 days of a mostly dress casual life. I do not need this much clothing for my everyday life at any time. I need to use this adventure to help me learn to live with less, to be more satisfied with clean and fully dressed. I suspect many of us are this way.
This next forty-plus days are a bit like a Lenten journey, and a long green growing time. (Or at least this is what we are praying for in the high desert). Lots of letting go to be made ready for something brand new. There is nothing easy about the cleaning out, the examination, the anxiety or the tears. Yet it is important to journey through this time with love, patience and an open heart.
I saw a Lenten suggestion last winter about eliminating items from our overstuffed lives using a keep 2, donate 1 strategy. Do you have three nearly identical white shirts? Keep two and donate one. Perhaps to squash my desire to pack I can try this discipline on this summer. Any chance to examine your life, both the human part and the material part is a good thing.
Sometimes I wonder if the long season of Ordinary time needs subsections, perhaps three. Each could have a different discipline focus: rogation and hunger for early ordinary time, a celebration of growth for the middle and an extra examination of the saints leading into All Saints. I already consider October to be a Franciscan mini-season. I like big themes and clear directions that help in the practices of the Christian life.
The ordinary is crucial, it is after all normal and ordinary. However how we approach it as leaders communicates its vitality or its lack of importance. Is it a low focus vacation time or not? We have big deal secular holidays on a regular schedule because they help us mark the time. They help children to connect the focus in front of them to the anticipation of what comes next. What focuses would you add to our wandering through Ordinary time? The long green growing time is a good thing; how can we help families experience the Christian practices more deeply in its midst?