Our parish had their annual Carnival this weekend. As always, there is a ton of preparation that goes into putting something of that magnitude together. But the result is always the same; the opportunity for members of our church and community to forget about their troubles for a while, and just let loose and have some fun.
My husband and I have several strategies to navigate this annual affair. First, we lie to our children that we are actually going to go. We secretly buy ride passes and hide them in my work bag, because honestly, nobody (not even me) looks in that bag while we are at home. Then, when behavior becomes an issue, those passes become a bargaining ticket (AKA: Bribery) to help facilitate acceptable behavior.
We also have determined the best time of the day to go to the carnival. After several years of trial and error, we have discovered that the beginning of the carnival session on the second or last day is usually best. We feed the bottomless pits that we call our children and head out to the rides. The lines are shorter. The place is full of other weary parents who have also used ride passes as a "reward" for acceptable behavior, and their kids have called their bluff. Some of these parents walk around for the duration of their time there with an easily recognizable look that can pass as tolerant and permissive, but they are really screaming on the inside.
That was not the route I wanted to go today.
We got there early. We feed them, and we plotted. What rides are we going on? What shall we ride on first?
My oldest son, by nature, is somewhat cautious. He has a hard to letting go, he takes himself way too seriously at the ripe old age of nine. And for the longest time, he was TERRIFIED of anything that wasn't a tame little train.
And my son inherited this cautiousness and terror from me. Because for too long in my life, I have been terrified of letting loose, of letting go, of having pure fun. The tide has turned with me, albeit a little late, but changed nonetheless. Because life is too short. Because my kids are watching. Because I have worried and been afraid enough to last me a lifetime.
So, together, these two former 'fraidy cats let loose. We rode the swings, we rode the merry go round, we rode on the fun slide, we rode this contraption that looked like hang gliders, we rode the Ferris wheel, the same Ferris wheel that would send him wailing.
Not today. He was vibrant. And Andrew; he watched his older brother, he watched his mother. He was fueled by our courage, got on his sea legs and joined us on the Ferris Wheel. He let go of some of his fear too.
And not a minute too soon. In two days, Matthew will sit for the State Mandated Exams. Andrew will follow with a National Standardized Test the following week. Mommy will watch her two oldest sons take an inevitable step towards academic testing...not that I can agree with it, but it is what is required. I will watch and pray over my students as they test as well.
But I will be thinking of how I enjoyed the ride today on that Hang Glider contraption. How I surprised myself, my husband and my sons. And how I kept my eyes open, the whole time, feeling like a bird among the clouds, my son's hand in my own, flying...