Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to Set the Table for a One-Armed Monkey

Clark Kent's life has a lot of ordinary moments. So do we.
Currently, our ordinary life moments include monkeys in the backyard. 

There are baby monkeys that wrestle and ricochet off each other. And mama monkeys that latch them onto their bellies to calm them down. The most notorious monkey in our backyard crew, however, is the slightly-too-brave one-armed monkey. (We all have our theories on what happened to that arm.) We love watching them fly from treetops to fence tops, stopping only to taunt the neighborhood dogs. Lifa makes up monkey family stories, and has given them their own voices and personalities. 

Lifa watching monkeys take over the playground.
Recently, we were all away from home for two weeks. Lifa was with his biological father for school holiday. Chris and I were in Cape Town. Everything felt right the moment all three of us were back together and monkey escapades began again. We have new monkey babies! Lifa is convinced the one-armed monkey is the mom. He immediately started wondering aloud about how difficult it would be to be a mom if you only had one arm. It got serious. He was getting concerned.

For someone with something super in them, ordinarily life is ok until a struggle surfaces. In that first moment of hardship, however, things have to change.

In a flash, Clark Kent changes into Superman’s costume. 
Lifa outgrew his superhero t-shirts with velcro capes a long time ago. (That was rough.) But in Lifa's turmoil, I realised there was no cape required: This was the real super-deal. 

In a flash, Lifa transformed his worldview from ordinary to super. He had to. He’s got super in him. Lifa couldn’t bear the idea of struggle, even in a monkey family, so he had to look into the pain until he found something great.

“You know, sometimes it’s a lot better to not have what everybody else has because then you get to learn how to do what nobody else can do.” He started to think about how a one-armed monkey might be able to do stuff better and in cooler ways than a two-armed monkey because she would have to try harder.

There was more to this than monkey moms. Lifa needed to rewrite his worldview for a lot of things he had seen during his past two weeks away from our home. He plopped down in the tire swing, kicked up his feet, and asked what kind of job he could get to save kids from houses full of drinking beer and "smoking drunk” (drugs). He didn't want kids to be scared and to know they didn’t have to smoke drunk or drink beer. 

He was showing his cards from the past two weeks.
Even more than that, he was showing his character. 

Clark Kent has two identities: one ordinary and one super. Lifa has been clued in on the secret that he does too. I don’t mean the SiSwati-speaking and the English-speaking families he goes back and forth between. (We do our best to bring those worlds together into one family.) Lifa knows he’s part of a completely untraditional ordinary family - and he’s part of a super family. 

All of us are born into an ordinary family and ordinary life. As with all things ordinary, there are broken, scary, and perhaps one-armed things that happen along the way. But we are destined and designed for a super family. We can get re-born into the family that sees with strength and saves the day. The super family is being a part of the Kingdom of God, and it lasts forever. 

You can tell which identity Clark Kent is operating in based on his outfit. It’s not quite as easy for those of us who have outgrown our capes. But here’s a little secret...
The Ladds have an undercover radar system in our house: Chalkboard Placemats.

It was my dream-come-true DIY project for our wedding anniversary dinner table. (Chalkboards and table settings are two of my favorite things in life.)

Anniversary dinner. THE PLACEMATS.
We take turns writing on them because finding the extra-special place marked for you is the very most fun way to start dinnertime, and sometimes you learn about how the one holding the chalk sees themselves and the others at the table. 

We knew Lifa was doing ok on that very first night he was back in our house after his two weeks away. Check out the placemats he set for us:

Mine: "Love is Forever!!! I miss your cooking."

Chris': "Best Driver Ever. How does it feel to be a champ?"
(His muscles drawn in the background. Obviously.)

Lifa's: "The brave hero comes home."

We don’t get to choose a lot about the circumstances in our lives. We do get to choose which eyes we use to see them with and which words we use to write them with: the ordinary or the super. 

You can even write the words and take the seat before you really feel it. Lifa choked as he shovelled dinner in his mouth that first night, afraid it would all be gone or he would stay hungry again. Then he slept 15 hours straight, saturated in his own pee. His body and mind were obviously not functioning at their prime. But all that anxiety, fear, deep hunger and weariness sat down right where they should: at the brave hero’s place. 

He’s an ordinary 8-year old whose super-heart challenges me to ask a few questions about the way I see the world. 

No matter what the last two weeks were like, what if we just used the one-arm we have to pull our ordinary lives up to an extraordinary table together?

What if we wiped those old placemats clean and pulled out a fresh piece of chalk? What would your place, your super-place, say? And what would you write for the others at the table? 

It matters. It changes things. 



  1. I was reading the blog and doing really well until...the first night home placemats! Then, I simply could not breathe! I've seen the Clark Kent moments and wish I were there to see the Superman moment! He is destined for SUPER!!

    1. I KNOW. The picture of his placemat is now my desktop background. Super kid. You and Brett played a major role in teaching him about super families. Thank you! love y'all