Have you ever had one of those moments where you see your kid doing something and all of a sudden you're hit with a feeling of everything is all right in the world?
Yesterday, I took the kids over to a little homespun "Unity Festival" in Santa Monica. I only knew about it because I had received an email from CR's jump rope teacher telling us she would be jumping rope in the "fun zone" so why don't we stop by.
You see, CR's school has this after-school enrichment program where the kids can sign up (and pay) to take a variety of cool classes. This is a parent-run program designed to give the kids exposure to a bunch of extra-curricular stuff. And this program is run by a neighbor and uh, me. My first serious foray into the world of volunteering at school and I won't go into any details but suffice it to say, thank God my neighbor does more of the work.
One of the classes is "The Jump Squad" where the kids can learn how to jump rope. But not just the basics, all the hip stuff - double-dutch, twisting, and turning and learning all of the cool rhythmic chants and songs to keep you jumping at the right beat.
So we showed up at the festival and headed over to find CR's teacher, a friendly black chick with braids all over her head and one of the most welcoming smiles I've encountered. She's pleasant and positive and a damn good jump rope teacher. It took her a moment to recognize us because I don't think she really expected us to show up. I don't think anyone else from CR's class was there unifying. But the idea of unity was sounding good to me on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon.
I had only watched CR's jump squad after school one or two times and it was early on in the session. She was just learning the ropes. But yesterday, I got to behold a whole different kind of jumper.
CR, who is 6-1/2-years old, cruised right up to the jump rope scene where a gaggle of girls were hanging around CR's teacher and her partner who helps turn the rope. Now one of the reasons I dig living in LA is the diversity here. CR has every skin color in her class with kids from literally all over the world and it's nothing less than awesome. It's a reminder of how the world should function but never will. Sharing snacks, playing kickball and jumping rope in peace.
So CR stood in this group of black girls with her milky white skin, strawberry blond hair and a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Nothing was hesitant about her. Nothing indicated she felt out of place. And no one else seemed to feel that way either. It was all about getting down to business - the business of jumping rope.
The teacher instructed the jumpers that they were going to do a "traveling single line jump" where all the girls would stand shoulder-to-shoulder and jump together while the rope moved up and down the court. They had to jump and move forward, jump and move forward, switch directions when they hit the end of the court, and jump back all the way down the court until someone missed which would then eliminate them.
No problem. The girls knew the drill. They all lined up, 7-8 girls in all, and Claire was pretty much in the middle. The only white girl.
And she jumped. Shoulder to shoulder with girls with dark skin, and cool, funky hair, and most taller than her.
And she jumped. Staring straight ahead, yet her eyes would dart from side to side when needed to eye a movement of another girl or the rope, her arms down at her side, legs together, and she jumped.
And the rope turned faster. And she jumped. And they all jumped. Together to the beat. One mission. Jumping over the rope.
I stood and watched in utter awe. My firstborn looking so grown up right then and there with her funky plaid skirt, her brown top with little pink and purple hearts all over it, her knee-high colorful mismatched socks, and her hair pulled back into a low pony-tail that she did all on her own.
As each girl was eliminated, CR jumped on until she was one of the final two. Her and the other girl who must have been three years older than her jumped up and down the court almost four times before CR finally got tired and tripped up the rope. Her teacher took CR's arm raising it up to announce she had come in second place before she moved on to give the winner her props.
All the girls smiled and laughed and said "Good Job" to CR as she rejoined the group waiting for the next game to be played.
As I watched, I marveled at how ease she looked. How comfortable she was in this setting. How confident she was in her jump roping ability.
I saw my firstborn as her own person. A soul bound for all kinds of adventures and experiences growing into her own skin. A kid whose feet seemed firmly planted on her ground who felt she had a place in the world. Or at least a place in the jump rope line.
Even later when we had long left the fun zone and we were walking around other areas of the festival, CR asked me if she could go back and jump. She was okay with the thought of running off and jumping back in with a new set of strangers.
All in the name of jumping rope.
I'm not sure I've ever felt this exact way before. As I watched CR jump and chat and giggle and chant, I heard a voice within me, loud and clear, that said all is right in the world.
And in that perfect moment, it was.