To love a child

If you could relive a single day what would it be? Today, a week after my son’s wedding, I’d chose a magnificently ordinary day:

He would be 5 or 6, young enough to still call me Mama. Old enough to ride bikes to the Library. Past Jefferson School. Past the Brunner’s house. To the downtown library where we’d rifle thru the cubby of new books and admire the fish. Afterward, we’d stop at Tess’s Twist across the street and spin on the twirly stools while we slurped ice cream cones. The outdoor counter service ice cream shop has been long gone and, incidentally, the property now boasts Father’s Fats where we celebrated his and Gabby’s engagement last summer.

With sticky fingers, we’d bike back to Fremont Street, to our House with the Red Door and in our little kitchen, I’d wash his little face. Even now I can smell the sweet, earthy scent of his sweaty summer forehead.  We’d play trains up in his room with the glistening wood floors and red curtains.

I wouldn’t rush. I wouldn’t disrupt the make-believe world we’d created by slipping away to take care of something as mundane as laundry or bills or dinner. I’d see how long we’d go building viaducts for Thomas and Percy. Hours maybe? I wouldn’t rush.

            And I wouldn’t rush when it was time to tuck him in. I’d say like I invariably did, “Two books tonight.”

Like always, he’d negotiate. “How ‘bout five?”

And instead of saying, “Three. Only three,” I’d say, “Five it is!” And after the fifth, I’d reach for a sixth. Maybe a seventh.

And his eyes would take on that impish twinkle and we’d read that silly book called Underwear! and he’d fall into that infectious laugh that shook his whole body to the point he’d sometimes fall out of his chair.

I wouldn’t rush a second of it.

I wouldn’t rush.

I do not mourn the fact that he grew up. What a gift to be present for it. What a gift to have him this long. That kind of time together is not taken for granted. And I rejoice that he chose an excellent bride, and she chose an excellent groom.

A couple months before the wedding this poem tumbled out. I wrote and shared a different poem for them, the couple, about them. To them. I often have to write my emotions out, somewhat like working through a fever, so this one was more for me and probably veers into self-absorbed. But I suppose that’s an unavoidable characteristic of processing strong emotion, processing life, processing what it is to love a child.

My son is getting married

My son is getting married and the day is strange and right.
He’s grown so fine and tall and I pray he walks in light with his chosen one beside him
as partner and as friend,
the path of life unfolding as childhood comes to end.

The little boy is gone now, has been for some time.
Trains and trinkets put away, his hand’s no longer mine.
Yet I still catch the twinkle
in his brown eyes deep and dear
of the boy he was – still is – in my memory of the years.  

Of camping trips and snowmen made and bike rides to the park,
chocolate frosting and breathless laughs and stories that would mark times of sweet discovery,
his and also mine,
the swell of love felt for a child you have only for a time.

And my regrets of when I fell or failed to see his need, 
I ask the Lord to fill the gaps, give grace and intercede. For there are days I’d do again
if God granted me the chance
but life is not a repeat show but an ever-pulsing dance.

As he journeys on now, his bride close to his side,
let go
give thanks
the treasure sweetly tied to the gift of who he is, and was, and help me to embrace
the rush of joy
the jolt of change
and stories drenched in grace.

5 responses to “To love a child”

  1. Oh boy. Teary good. I wouldn’t rush either.

  2. No one seems to write about this mental journey a parent takes after we launch our new young adults. A part of me does long for those early days when our house was filled with laughter, hot wheels and snuggles. We are grateful that our children are independent and thoughtful adults. But some days I wish they were in the basement playing video games. (like so many other parents of adult children)
    Slowly I’ve transitioned through the years from “general mama” to “advisor if asked”. But some days I feel that I need them emotionally more than they need me, I wish they were in town vs far away living their adventures. Does this make me a narcissist? Perhaps for my generation it is harder. Women made a conscious decision to be a “stay at home mama”. We put our everything into the children to focus on the family. Plus, the whole infertile battle made me treasure my children deeply. I suppose I was unbalanced. By the grace of God alone we parented imperfectly. So now I am adjusting to the new normal of the empty nest. And I’m working on celebrating and enjoying this different chapter of being a parent.
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Knowing others have these swirling memories of days past and new ones ahead helps normalize the journey. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Bethann. New normal for sure! So many changes and yes, hard for our Mamma’s hearts to keep up. The last time I saw your ‘little boy’ I think he was 5. 🙂

  3. Where is the “ love “ button? This is beautiful, relatable, sweet.

    1. Thank you DeDe, hope you and yours are well! I know you know for sure what it is to love a child!

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