We have this great park a little over a mile from our home. It’s brand new, and features a very creative, modern playground. The highlight of the park is a series of artificial hills covered in astroturf. Kids of all ages love to run up to the top of the hills, then slide down on pieces of cardboard. It’s really quite innovative and fun.
About a week ago, we met some friends at this same park. I was standing at the bottom of the hill, holding Liesl and chatting with a friend as Oliver climbed up the hill and slid down repeatedly. At one point, I heard Oliver’s sing-songy high-pitched voice say from the top of the hill, “Watch, Mommy!” I turned my head to see his wide open smile as he slid down the hill. My heart smiled to be there watching the pure joy that only a child can personify.
Then he walked over to another play piece, climbed to the top, got poised to go, then paused and said, “Watch, Mommy!” He waited until I made eye contact and smiled at him before he went down the slide, giggling the whole way.
And then my eyes started to cloud over and my throat got tight as I realized – these precious days are fleeting.
I was going back to work in mere days.
And then where will his Mommy be when he gets to the top of the slide and pauses to see who’s watching? Who will smile at him as he slides down the hill?
Will he just stand there and wait? Just look around at all the other kids? Or call out, “Watch, Mommy!” – and then look around and realize that she’s not there? Then what will he do?
Where will his Mommy be when he wants her to watch him?
Let me pause and say: I’m truly blessed with the babysitters we have. I love the women that watch Oliver (and now Liesl). They are so sweet and kind to him, and I believe they really like and truly care about him. I’m sure they’ll smile and watch him go down the hill if he asks, “Watch!”
But they also have anywhere from 2-4 other kids they’re watching, several of them their own children. So naturally they can’t be watching him all the time.
And they’re not his Mommy. It’s one type of request to say, “Watch, Amy!” That’s a request to “Watch, because I’m doing something cool and want attention!” It’s another type of request to say, “Watch, Mommy!” That’s a request to “Be with me, Mommy, in everything I do! Cause you’re my favorite person in the world, and I want you to see all the cool things I can do and be so proud of me because I love you!”
No one will ever be as proud of him as he braves new things, will ever think his giggle is quite as delightful, will ever watch him slide down the same hill over and over and over as tirelessly as his Mommy. No one will ever love watching him as much as I do. I feel so honored to be the one that he calls Mommy, the one whose glance and smile can give him the courage and motivation to do exciting things, the one whose hand he wants to hold as he experiences new things.
And while I know logically that’s he’ll be fine – he won’t be scarred or damaged because Mommy isn’t there to watch him – that doesn’t make my heart long to be there any less. That doesn’t keep me from thinking of every smile I won’t see, every cuddle I’ll miss out on, and every little red curl I won’t get to tussle throughout the day.
So, friends, if you have room in your prayers, offer a small one up for me. Starting tomorrow, this Mommy goes back to work.