Parker had a late night play date with his friend the other night. He’s not a late night boy, so when Gumpa and I went over to babysit I wondered what condition he might be in when he came home two hours after his normal bed time. He bounded in the front door and threw himself on the ottoman in the family room, where Gumpa and I sat on the couch with Sophie snuggled next to us.
“How was it Bud?” we asked him.
“Good. Did you ever see TinTin?”
We had not. But we asked him if he liked seeing it.
“Yes, but the middle was scary.” He said it in a resigned sort of way, like he knew he was gonna have to deal with these feelings all night now, and it worried him. I asked if the ending was ok, and he said yes, so we agreed that if he started thinking too much about the scary middle he should jump to the ending in his mind.
“Hey Bud, let’s go get in your PJ’s, K?”
“Well, I have to go potty”, he replied. I said OK, go ahead, and he hesitated.
“Gummy, there’s a window in the bathroom.”
“Does that worry you?”
I cannot adequately describe his soft blue eyes, his pursed eyebrows, the way he speaks with those crystalline pools and does not need to use words.
“Yes. Will you come with me?”
So I accompanied little Park to the bathroom and leaned against the counter while he sat on the throne. He wrapped his little fist around the bar below the window and plopped his head onto his forearm, moaning.
“What’s wrong, Park?”
“I wish…I wish…” he kept trying to get the words out right.
“I wish I was fourteen. Maybe not fourteen, maybe just a teenager. Maybe not a teenager, I wish I was just grown up.” His tone was not wistful, like he had dreams he wanted to accomplish. It was more weary, like he was anxious for the inevitable to finally get here.
“Why’s that, Buddy?” I scooted over closer to him so I could look him in the eye.
But he didn’t look up.
“I wish I was grown up so I wouldn’t have to be scared any more.”
When you’re a mom, and feel a stewardship to your children, that stewardship bleeds over to their children, and also to the neighbor’s children, come to think of it. That trigger that made itself known when I first entered the nurturer phase of my life presented itself and I grabbed hold of it. I instantly shot a prayer to heaven, not dissimilar in trajectory to the tubes at the drive-thru at the bank. Give me an adequate answer Lord…and quick.
“Well, Park, you’ll get your turn soon enough. But right now you are one lucky boy because you have a Mommy and a Daddy whose number one job is to protect you, and not only that, you have a Gummy and a Gump and Papa and Mushy, and all the other grown ups who love you. We all promise to protect you. Just let us do that and you relax until you are grown up, K?”
Gumpa lay in Parker’s bed with him, reading until they both fell fast asleep. I tucked Sophie in bed and sat on the couch, pondering.
Words, repeated from the mouth of our boy, silently rose to heaven. Recent birthdays and recent brushes with fate made me shiver, feeling like I was stuck in the middle of the movie, swirling in the scary part. My own mortality, and that of the people I cherish most, came to view like a shadow in the bathroom window. My mother is 89 years old this year. I am the younger of my siblings. My husband is six years older than I am. I am no longer in control of so much of my life. I question if I ever was in control, or if I have been living in a state of denial. Those vulnerable emotions I try to scoot away came swirling around my head; those emotions you don’t let a five year old boy see when he’s scared. I never want to tell him that being grown up doesn’t take away that fear. He’ll figure that out on his own. And I am quite sure that my own fears, if they were presented side by side with anyone or anything trying to harm our children, would be cast aside in favor of protection at any cost. Still, they are present, these childlike fears in a grown up mind, as I sit under my own scary window.
Blessed week that it is, and blessed Lenten sacrifice that makes me think more deeply about the blessed week… I felt my thoughts being led, like a lamb to water, to images of my savior in deep red robes, returning to claim His flock. I could almost hear Him say, “I promise to protect you. Don’t be afraid. I will fight your enemies and bring you home. Just let me do that, K?”
I could hear my mother’s voice from some long ago moment, quoting in her most comforting poetic voice: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Trust Him.
I suppose I do, because if there was ever a child who had a Parent who was trustworthy, it is I. And, sacred truth be known…it is also you.
He is worthy and He is able.