I'm the first to admit that my key ring is ridiculously large. But it is handy -- I wear it as a bracelet, hang it on a doorknob, tuck the ring into my waistband like a chatelaine's keys to the castle. And the jingling sound they produce as I walk while carrying my keys has become a signal of sorts for my kids. When I'd go to pick up Zoe or Maya from preschool, they'd pop out of their classrooms as I walked down the hall, knowing I was coming from the sound of the keys.
Today, Zoe's class was responsible for the weekly all-school Mass; class members serve as ushers, do the bible readings, etc. Zoe had a speaking part, so she was eager for me to be there. Parents sit in the balcony when they attend the school Mass -- not much room for extra bodies in the pews downstairs -- so I was above her when her class walked in. She didn't see me, didn't turn to look up to the balcony, and I wanted her to know I was there. So, I took my keys out of my pocket and lightly shook them. She turned her head immediately, a Pavlov's dog response! She gave me a big grin and I gave her a thumb's up. Of course, later in the Mass, she performed her part flawlessly, at least in part, I tell myself egotistically, because she knew I was there to support her.
The symbolism of the keys is evident to me -- it's how we encode ourselves in our kids. We embed signals, keying in our presence. We want them to know, even when we are not there beside them, that we are with them. We love them, we support them -- we have their backs. We want them emboldened, empowered, to stand up to bullies, to answer awkward questions about adoption and their different families. We want them to know they can rely on us, so they can be free to reach their full potential. We want them to feel our love, even when we're not there.
Unconditional love. That's the key.