I am going to tell you a short story that is maybe/probably/mostly true. To be honest, I haven’t fact-checked it, because the story in my mind is quite possibly my favorite tale about childhood, period.
Because this story sums up so much in one powerful moment. And also because, in it’s most perfect way, it foreshadows something that is often our biggest dilemma in adulthood.
A little girl – a toddler at the time – went on a short trip with her father, and by the end of their wandering, they returned home with a tray of chicks. It’s likely that among his reasons for purchasing the creatures, the father may have hoped that the family would raise these small golden puffs into hens, so that the little girl and her siblings could experience the lessons held in raising animals (which are many) as well as eat fabulously yummy, orange-yolked eggs, laid in a coop with ample space and food and fresh air, and not in chicken-jail. At least that is how it plays in my mind.
This was a day of life and hope and anticipation.
But as this little girl held the first chick in her cradled fingers, she became so excited – so swept away by this wonderful small thing, something just her size, and so soft – that before anyone realized it had happened, without her knowledge and certainly without her intent, she had smothered it.
This is the moment.
I don’t know if the girl even knew what had happened, though if you are concerned, she is a sweet and happy girl who seems unaffected by the event. Her father may have simply taken the chick from her tiny hands and laid it elsewhere, possibly distracting her with a phone or snack or, as it would be in our family, mommy’s hairclips. Regardless, she will probably hear the account told at her wedding, or eighteenth birthday, or her high school graduation, to the giggles of her peers and reflective gaze of her parents.
But I want to tell it now.
I want to tell it now because I need this story; because I am this story. I am the little girl who is smothering the things I love most.
I love my son, Milo, and because I love him so fiercely, I want to control everything that happens to him. I want it to be good and safe and healthy, and for it to promote learning and development, but only where there are wood chips covering the ground and bumpers on the sharp things and someone there to praise him with a smile bigger than the sun.
I love my husband, Craig, and because I love him so fiercely, I want his job to be challenging [but not stressfully so] and his hobbies exciting [but not risk his safety] and his friendships deep [but never hurt him].
I love my freedom, and because I love it so fiercely, I want it to be all-encompassing and limitless, but never oblige me to go beyond what is comfortable, and never require me to endure injury or pain or sacrifice for its sake, or in in its enjoyment, ever ask that I
Yet, after these reflections, I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I have heard enough tales of regret from others to be certain of this. We are each like a child, holding a chick in our small hands for the very first time. And without really meaning to, we can be so overcome by the sheer force of our captivation that we may very well squeeze to death the thing we love so fiercely.
This Christmas season, join me as I make myself aware of the things that I am seeking, because of the brokenness of my love, to control or contain, and then as I, in small and big ways, work to loosen my constricting grip on them, that they may
[and lay fabulous eggs].
Just pretend it's a chicken.