It’s so terribly frightening, this love that walks of its own accord.
These little feet, once unsteady with inexperience, that now leap and run and race to new adventures.
I kiss his cheek and still remember the feel of his skin for the first time –
Its pink newness. The softest thing I’d ever felt. I remember tracing my finger along his cheek, tracing the curvature of his jaw and his lips, lost in absolute wonder.
His eyes, the same dark hues of his father. Stolen glimpses of the man he could become. I search for him, seeking out an image of the future. What will he look like at thirteen? On his graduation day? Standing at the front of the church waiting for his bride? I envision him holding his own child for the first time -confronted with the awe and wonder and fear and insecurity that parenthood ushers in to each heart.
I open my eyes and he’s one. One year. I hear the songs sung in the early morning hours. Not another soul awake. Love songs overflowed from my heart to my lips. Even then, I knew these moments wouldn't last forever.
Today, I place my cheek on his hair and breathe in its earthy fragrance – a smell unique to little boys – part sunshine, part dirt, exuberance and activity. He wants to be a bee when he grows up, or a cowboy, or Spider-man. Part of me wants to pause this moment - to imbibe the joy and wonder of four. To enjoy a world where heartaches are mended with a mother’s embrace and when sorrows are chased away with the promise of the cookies hidden high beyond his reach.
But time marches on. It rushes through my fingers. I clench my fists, struggling to hold onto the moments, knowing that you can’t hold on to a rushing stream. It slips through my fingers, carrying the days and moments and years with it.
The future frightens me. I want to wrap him up and keep him safe always, and yet I know that sometimes the best things in life are risky. They’re beautifully dangerous.
I've decided the most difficult part of motherhood is the letting go. The ability to hold loosely to the heart that beats outside my own body. So I watch and cheer and wait, knowing that one day he will be on his own. His need for me will change. For this moment, for this one spot in time, I’m at the center, but I won’t stay here forever. New faces, new adventures, new challenges will draw him from the nest. They’ll challenge him to test his wings, to step out onto the ledge and dare to fly.
That’s the way it’s meant to be. Deep within my heart I know it’s true, and yet I still feel the ache of goodbyes not yet spoken. I know he isn't mine to keep. I know he was never truly mine to begin with.
I learn to be still.
I choose not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of its own.
For now, I’ll look into his little boy face - eyes that look like his father’s and lips that look like my own. I’ll read the same story for the hundredth time and answer the question that’s been asked a thousand times before. Fully understanding that the days are long, but the years are short.
My mind captures a thousand images, tucking them away in the secret places of my heart. The scent of a newborn, the softness of his skin. The unsteady steps and the cadence of a baby’s laughter. The exuberant hug of a toddler asking, “How much do you love me, mom?”
I love you to the moon and back. Always have. Always will.