I wish he would start sleeping through the night…I wish she would hold her bottle on her own…I wish he would learn to sit up…I wish she could tell me exactly what she wanted…I wish he would figure out potty-training…I wish she could pour herself some milk…I wish he would watch something besides “Thomas the Tank Engine”…I wish she went to school for longer than two-and-a-half hours…
Now they do. And now I am afraid I wished it all away. My baby starting Kindergarten has hit me a little harder than I had expected. Cut to just a few short weeks ago, I was the one listing off the reasons it was time for my kids to go back to school. I was antsy, on the verge of discovering for the first time the freedom that comes with having both of my children educated all day long, five days a week. This was something I had passing fantasies about for the last eight years. So I didn’t expect to find myself grieving when my wish finally came true.
The first real wave of sadness came a week and a half after Michael started Kindergarten. The first day I went to pick up the kids from school, I pulled into the parking lot and almost instinctively started to get out of my car and head over to the tree where all the moms bring their little ones to play while waiting for the students to let out. Then it hit me: I don’t have a little one to bring to the tree. I was alone in the car. I felt as though I should pull out my phone to check my emails in the driver’s seat, just like all the other moms of older kids. I may as well start online shopping for graduation invitations while I was at it.
But the real emotional juggernaut came later, when Michael had a late start day at school. I decided to take advantage of a little alone time with him and head to a park. Mid-morning…at a playground. It’s like Mecca for toddlers. I couldn’t help but have constant flashbacks to the days of having little ones, as I was surrounded by all these moms with tots. I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I hadn’t enjoyed those days enough…and now I had missed my chance.
In order to get my mind off of it, I suggested to Michael we take a little walk. We sat by the pond playing I Spy. Michael was coming up with his typical answers that are either totally obvious (“I spy with my little eye something that is blue and on my foot“…. Your shoe?…“Yes.”) or totally funny (“I spy with my little eye something big that blows fire”… A dragon?… “Yes”… Where’s a dragon?… “In my imagination.”). As we were playing, I couldn’t help but think about when he was younger, and he would simply spy the exact same thing the person before him spied. Grace and I used to giggle at him and try to pretend like we didn’t know what it was. As soon as we made one wrong guess, he would just tell us the answer. Either that, or he would simply start off saying, “I spy wiff my wittle eye a tree.” …Um, is it a tree?…“Yes.” As I oscillated between reminiscing and playing the game with him beside the pond, he said something so poignant, proof that God speaks to us through little moments.
“I spy with my little eye something that is red and inside you, and you give it to people when you miss them.”
I asked if it was your heart. He answered yes.
“You give your heart to people when you miss them so they feel better.”
I detected a slight break in his voice, which I knew was caused by his anxiety over the impending start time of school. I told him my heart is always with him to help calm the fears he is still trying to overcome. But I felt a break in my own voice…because I knew I was going to miss this moment one day…just like I was missing what already seems like a long ago time when we could come to the park on a whim, and I would be carrying around baggies of Cheerios and sippy cups of water in my purse. And both of my children wore tiny little shoes and outfits that matched because they still let me dress them. And I would shadow them around the playground, secretly wishing that someone we knew would show up so I could have a just little adult conversation. In stark contrast, at this moment by the pond, I barely made eye contact with the other parents, because all I wanted to do on this day was play with my son. But it was time to take Michael to school, and I had spent the last five years of his life, and the last eight years of Grace’s life, wishing it all away…so I could have MY time. Now I’m spending my time wishing it would all come back. It can’t come back. I know that. It is silly to waste time wishing for it, because all I would be doing is missing out on who my children are NOW. I spent their past looking at the future; it would be a crime to spend their present looking at the past.
It is as if Michael knew on some level what I was going through that mid-morning by the pond. He somehow felt I was missing him in his toddler form, with a nose that was always snotty, a mouth that ate everything but food, and a body always ready to snuggle. So he told me something that let me know that same little heart was still beating in his bigger self, and made me realize that the boy he is now is better than the one I could have ever wished for then.
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