Initially, this post was to be about how children grow and how no two children are alike and we should value their differences and not rush them to develop at a particular pace. I even had it half-written in my head. After tonight, I'm writing about something different.
Tonight, my mom, June and I went to a pig roast at my friend's house. June was playing with some older kids in the neighbors yard, and I could see her from where I was standing. My mom and I were talking to an old friend when I saw all the other kids come running back from the neighbors. I glanced around and didn't see June. I looked around the backyard and didn't see her. I started walking around the backyard and calling her name. I didn't see her. I looked back at my mom and she stopped talking and looked around and realized what was happening. We both started scouring the house and backyard. I stopped one of the kids June had been playing with and asked her if she had seen where June went. She said no. I walked toward the end of the yard, where it butted up against a schoolyard. I saw one of the girls that June had been playing with riding her bike down the sidewalk. I started to panic. I thought about how easily June could have tried to follow this girl and gotten turned around in the neighborhood. I feared that someone might have pulled up in front of the house and yanked her into the car and driven away. I walked back into the yard and alerted my friend that June was missing. His son went to the neighbors to see if June had snuck inside. Others started looking around the yard for her. At this point, I was feeling nauseous, just totally sick in my gut. I walked up to another girl that June had been playing with and described June and asked if she had seen where she'd gone. At that moment, I heard my mom yelling for me, and I turned around. She was walking toward me, and she was holding June's hand. I ran up to her, scooped her up, and immediately burst into tears. She knew something was wrong, because she held me just as tightly. A lull sort of fell over everyone as they discovered that June had been located. We just stood there holding each other.
All of this transpired in about 5 minutes.
I haven't had a scare like that with June EVER. She is one to check in with me; I'm home base. She'll go play a little, then come back and hug me or tell me what she's doing, then go back out. She's terrified of people she doesn't know. She'll cling to me and hide behind me and tuck her little head as far into her shoulder as it will go. For her to wander off on her own is extremely rare.
So many emotions arose in me during that 5 minutes. Obviously fear was at the top. I didn't even want to imagine what would have happened if she had been taken. I was also angry with myself for not staring at June every single second to make sure she was right where I thought she was. I was sad because the only thing I could think of was her perfect little hugs and how badly I wanted one at that very moment. However, the strongest emotion I felt was regret. Strangely enough, this trumped all the other emotions.
I regretted all the times I had pushed her to do something so she could meet another developmental milestone. I regretted yelling at her when I was having a rough day and she was pushing all my buttons, though unintentionally. I regretted any and all times I had left her with a sitter, regardless of the plans I had, whether it be work, church, etc. I regretted not hugging her every second and taking every single possible opportunity to tell her I love her. All I wanted at that moment was to hold her and kiss her and whisper 'I love you' over and over and over again, forever. If I find her, I thought, I'll never ever push her to accomplish anything again. I'll never yell again. I'll never stop hugging her. I'll follow her around for the rest of her life telling her I love her.
It's amazing what the absence of your child will do to your heart under duress.
If you're a parent, you know this sinking feeling. You're at the beach, you scan the water....and you don't see your child. You sit up. You glance up and down the shore. Wasn't he just there? You stand. You walk toward the water. You start yelling his name. People are looking at you, then out at the water, wondering if what they think is happening is really happening. You start to feel nauseous, you start to play out the horrid future waiting for you if your child is gone....and then, from behind you, "Momma? I'm here. I was building a castle!"
Our children will never understand the ramifications of their random "disappearances" until they are parents. They can not quite comprehend the panic, the sadness, the anger, the fear, the deep pain of loss already hitting our souls within minutes of losing sight of them. It's impossible to quantify, because the joy of a child is impossible to understand. Your heart turns inside out when you have a child. Something is triggered in a mother's brain that starts rewriting her memories, basically making it impossible to remember a time when that child wasn't her whole world. Your child is your heart, forever walking around outside your body.
Yet, somewhere along the way, our children often turn into trophies, tangible evidence of what great parents we are. It can become a rat race; her child spoke at 10 months - well, my child walked at 10 months - my little one speaks fluent Spanish at age 2 - our little guy can write his full name at just 3 years old - etc etc. We start to use our children to proclaim our achievements rather than letting the child be the achievement. Every single child is an achievement - regardless of developmental difficulties, disabilities, delays, etc. Every child is to be appreciated, no matter their circumstances.
During those 5 minutes of utter uncertainty, all I could think of is how much I love Juniper and how much I love being her mother. I honestly didn't care if she knew her numbers and letters. I didn't care if she learned to write her name in time or participated in dance class or could read by age 5. All I wanted was to hold her and tell her I love her until she fully understood - and that will take my entire lifetime. I plan to utilize every second of it to do exactly that.
Now that I'm a mother, I appreciate my mother for everything she went through, everything she did for me. When my mother became a mother, she had the same deep appreciation for her mother. Now that my grandma is getting older and losing her memory, my mother is clinging to those memories, loving on her mom every chance she gets. That's what being a parent is all about - teaching our children what love is, and loving them as much as we possibly can, as much as our being will allow. Forget about when he/she learns to walk. Don't worry about how soon he/she can talk. Stop worrying about whether or not they'll be successful in kindergarten. LOVE ON YOUR CHILDREN EVERY POSSIBLE MOMENT. It shouldn't have taken losing June for 5 minutes for me to remember that. It should be at the top of my Mommy To-Do List. It should be the only thing on my Mommy To-Do List.
Remember this: Don't be the wind - be the sun. Don't be like the wind, pushing the clouds around, making them go the way you want them to. Don't try to get your kids to behave a certain way, blowing them from accomplishment to achievement. The wind makes us hunker down, put on jackets, and try to get away. Be the sun. Drench them in the rays of your love. Let the warmth of your love open your children up to all the wild, beautiful potential they possess.
Brooke + JuneBug