I spent this past weekend with some cousins, including little Catherine. Catherine is three and has vivacious curly blonde hair that matches her personality. Her big blue eyes exude spunk and sass. Every other word that comes out of her mouth is "why?"
I admire Catherine so much, and perhaps even envy her a bit. She is so filled with wonder at everything...she doesn't have to worry about the SAT or student loans. She's not concerned about her weight or how people react to her personality. She doesn't know how to be anything else...besides who she is. Besides who God made her to be. She hasn't been hurt by other people, she doesn't know really know how to do anything besides love unconditionally. She's so trusting, reaching her pudgy arms out to anyone who will take her.
Maturity is a beautiful gift. But how often do we willingly give up aspects of childishness that we should keep?
Catherine kept calling the boys (there were about seven total, ranging from seven to sixteen) "hedgehogs". I'm still not really sure where that came from. The word guys has officially been replaced by hedgehogs in my vocabulary. Sorry, hedgehogs.
My sisters or I would be holding her and say "Hey, Catherine, what do you want to do?"
She'd lift her arms towards the sky, as if preparing for battle. Her ever-present grin would widen as she would shriek: "LET'S GO TICKLE HEDGEHOGS."
Lots of hedgehogs got tickled this weekend.
When they would try to tickle her back, she would scream, "BAD, BAD BEHAVIOR!"
Catherine also has figured out how to play her parents. It often occurred that she would ask Mommy for something, only to be told no. Then she would go find Daddy, who would absent-mindedly answer yes.
The sass that this child has is unparalleled. She was giving her mom a hard time Sunday morning, so I attempted to help put her shoes on. While doing this, her mom wiped some powdered sugar off her face.
"HEY!" Catherine yelled. "DON'T DO THAT!"
"Your mommy is just trying to help make you pretty!" I explained.
"I was talking to Mommy not you." came the response.
"I'm scared for what she'll be like in ten years..." my aunt shook her head.
Catherine sat on my lap during church that morning, which was so fun. She started out with my sister (also named Catherine), but at age thirteen, she weighs only like two pounds (not joking at all), and Catherine nearly broke Catherine's arms. Make sense?
Anyway, Catherine was super good for the most part. She sang along and stayed put. At one point, the church was completely silent, and she looked at me and whisper-yelled, "HOW OLD ARE YOU?" (I swear, she only has one volume.)
"Seventeen," I answered, holding back giggles. It wasn't even that funny, but her little voice and intense stare killed me.
"OH. WELL I'M FIVE AND I'M IN KINDERGARTEN AND PRESCHOOL."
I could not get a grip. Again, it's not even that funny, but she's just such a stinker.
There was one point in the course of the weekend when my dad was talking to her parents and asked when they were going to come visit us. Catherine looked up from her watermelon and cocked her head thoughtfully, saying, "But my mommy and daddy would miss me too much."
One night, we were being really silly and I told her my name was Ed Boots. (Isn't that the most fantabulous name ever?! I have a step cousin on the other side of my family named Ed Boots and I'm eternally jealous of his name. My cousin and I want to write a whole series on him, even though we've met him like three times. And that was like...ten years ago. But still. That name, though.) After that, everyone became Ed Boots.
"Nice to meet ya, Ed Boots, how ya doin', Ed Boots," she kept saying every three minutes out of the blue. It became a chant of sorts, accompanied by a little hip shimmy and head bob.
Catherine is also quite talented in the art of fake crying. We had a fake outburst at least every hour, which was cured with a good tickle.
This weekend, I was wrapping up Sense and Sensibility (GREAT GREAT GREAT BOOK!). My uncle keeps their house literally below zero, so though it was over ninety degrees, I spent the weekend wrapped in a blanket and covered with pillows.
Saturday afternoon, I was reading when Catherine came over and demanded to bury me. Then, she issued a decree that I was "never, ever, ever, EVER allowed to move ever ever EVER again, Ed Boots". I obliged for a bit before peeking my head out. She was curled up on the other couch, holding my book up to her nose and occasionally page turning. It was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.
With a mighty roar, I broke lose of the pillow dungeon. She shrieked and reconstructed it, giving the same orders. This repeated itself two or three more times, each occasion ending with her back on the couch, reading Sense and Sensibility.
Perhaps my most profound thought of the weekend occurred when the
boys hedgehogs kept saying "RAWR" to get Catherine to scream. And scream she did. I've never met a child who loved screaming so much. Except maybe myself, I feel like I was a screamer. Anyway, my eardrums are still ringing.
Eventually, the strain on my poor ears was too much to handle, so I told her to counter their roar with an even louder one. It took her a few tries to get it, but eventually, she was roaring rather than screaming.
She would inhale half of the breath in her room, so much that her lungs were probably bursting and let out a roar larger than herself.
So many people try to get us to scream. They roar at us, try to scare us...and, oftentimes, we do. To quote Catherine, "Why?" Because it's what's easy. It's what is socially acceptable. We would rather not fight, we would rather just nod and move on. We submit, cower, and scream.
But what if we roared back? Roaring doesn't mean being hateful, and it doesn't mean being rude. But what it does mean is standing up for ourselves and what we believe in.
Catherine challenges us to be ourselves. To love fully. To be ourselves. To be silly. To tickle hedgehogs. To be fearless. To bounce back. To roar back.
Children are such a beautiful gift. They bring us joy, they bring clarity to our lives, and show us deeper truths. And they don't even try! So how do they do it?
Simply, by just being themselves.
Let us never take them for granted.