by Emilie Shimkus
September of this year was in fine form for science in the clouds and tricks of light. So much rain, so many unexpected and fleeting breaks in the clouds. It was a month of near-perfect conditions for rainbows, and we spotted them everywhere—soaring over a sparkling waterfront, through the plumes of water on the freeways, and disappearing behind hills and houses in our new neighborhood.
In September, my daughter was on the very slippery verge of three-years-old, and was, by turn, ecstatic and unimpressed by the arcs of color. “Look, look!” she’d cry one day, barely contained in her carseat as she craned to search the sky and I “mmmhmmm”-ed while driving. “A rainbow, Mom! Look! It’s soooo cute!” Another day, “Look, look!” That was me, physically twisting her body around and trying to get her to look up from her toy at the rainbow seeming to sprout from the trees in the park. Her response? “Mmmph.”
Funny how we take turns as parents and children, trying to get the other to see something wonderful.
I feel like I’m always talking, narrating the day and every single thing we encounter. We haven’t even gotten to the “Why” stage yet, and I’m already talking and talking to answer questions she hasn’t learned to ask yet. I’m trying to curb this insta-chatter a little, now that it’s a little less about “letting her hear new words” as the books and docs suggest, and more about “letting her make connections, ask questions,” and imagine her world.
However, one of the rainbow-sightings where we were both paying full attention happened to be a talking day. We were driving to Seattle, and the same rainbow traveled almost the entire drive with us, skipping around the valley and generally being an excellent playmate and distraction for a longish drive. We talked about the colors. My daughter said how Kermit likes rainbows. I asked her where it might end. “Umm… I don’t know!” And— ever primed for a little lesson from the driver’s seat—I said, “Do you know why rainbows are so special?”
She has a Noah’s Ark book, and I had intended to remind her about the ending, how the flood was a punishment, but God sent the rainbow as a promise of his love. But then, that just seemed like a lot of talking. There’s so much I want her to know and think about, but a lot of it seems like … just a lot of talking at this point. So I tried to make it simple.
I just said, “God makes the rain, and he makes the rainbow. When you see the rainbow, God is saying he loves us.” It seemed too easy, the same amount of words, but easier ones. And I have no idea if that is a distillation of sound theology or not. But she heard Rain, Rainbow, God, and Love. Those all seem like important words and images to me, so I feel alright about it.
And she, being almost-three, said, “Yeah, I know, I know,” and went back to humming and kicking and watching the rainbow out her window.
Dear God, thank you for all your colorful creation and the ways you surprise us with your love. Thank you for the words to say we are in and of your world, and thank you for the moments that don’t need any words at all… or only a few important ones. Please help us be always amazed, always attentive to your gifts. Amen