Tomorrow morning at 8:00am I drop my one and half year-old son off at daycare and we begin another ten months of only seeing one another for a couple, precious hours a day. After a full two months together of wild adventures exploring the backyard, pointing out planes, helicopters and birds flying overhead, vrooming trucks in the sand on the beach, and dancing in the living room together to our favorite songs on YouTube, I am without a doubt crushed and dreading 8:00am tomorrow morning in a way I’ve never experienced before.
When I mention this sadness that has come over me, people, with the best intentions in mind, seem to say the same thing: “Oh, I’m sorry. Just remember, he won’t remember this anyway.” OK, so I know at my core this is meant to be kind, helpful advice, but to me it feels like a punch in the gut. These past two months have been the best, most fun days I’ve had in my entire life, and to be told that they are essentially just for my sake feels off. It feels false.
Here’s what I know:
I have a mother and father who instilled a sense of adventure in my brother and I from the very beginning. I know this not because I remember all of my early childhood years, but because of who I became as an adult. My parents cultivated imagination in us and gave us the freedom to be children. I was free enough to sing loudly while I walked down the street to my friend Leigh Anne’s house and not once worry about what a neighbors thought. I was free enough to play with my Mom’s makeup and do things like cover my eyelids with her teal eyeshadow just before I met my Dad at the Dunnellon Country Club for lunch (side note, I must have been around seven or eight and I still remember how sweet the waitress was. She told me I looked pretty. What you say to people, even small people, always matters.), I was free enough to not remember a time when I wasn’t writing poetry for fun and reading it aloud for my family. Free enough to publically exclaim my love and devotion for Jesus Christ at nine years old with a fierce certainty. Free enough to swing from ropes into (let’s be honest) the alligator and water moccasin infested Rainbow River over and over again with no fear. I was free enough to climb broken down wooden forts in the woods and sit alone in silence just staring at trees. And around 14 years of age, I was free enough to claim theatre as a career path and ask my parents to drive me 45 minutes to a high school with a better theatre program. NEVER ONCE did they ask me if I should look into something else, something more steady, or more financially lucrative. Never once did they think twice about that drive. I was free to be me.
I get it, my son is one, and the memories of the summer of 2017 are not going to stick in his head the same way they will in mine. But I HAVE TO BELIEVE that every single puddle he played in, every giggle-fest we had in the car, all the times he ran and jumped in my lap with a new book to read, and each time he hugged me long and hard after an especially long nap, I HAVE TO BELIEVE, even if it’s not going to stick in his brain, it is sticking to his soul. I hope and pray that soul will sing loud, dance with no shame, build forts, write stories, lay in the grass, study the clouds, love people and most importantly get to know and love our graceful God. What I hope for my boy is to become a man who will not be afraid to look the giants of his life straight in the eye and say “Let’s do this, Goliath.”
Listen, I’m not going to lie, I’m a mess. I’m crying in the shower and in my car. My heart is breaking with every second we get closer to the start of this school year and the weight feels too big for me to conquer alone, but I know I’m not alone. I know Who goes ahead of me. So I cry but I also hold on to Big Faith.
So here’s to all the parents who are fighting this fight. Here’s to doing the best we can while we can, and here’s to a God that promises we never have to do anything alone. Here’s to courage. Here’s to faith.