When I arrive home from work, my son walks down the path to my little BMW, engine just off. He’s in his favorite play jacket – a puffy navy blue hooded car coat – and his little red canvas shoes and busted jeans. I can tell from his gait that he is sad. A friend took him to a homeschool gathering today, and all did not go well. Perhaps his sister has been unkind, in my absence.
My son is sad, and as I step up the path to meet me he says, “Mom… I had a rough day today -“. But even as he mugs for some pity and some tenderness, he begins to smile. He is confused because his heart is breaking over the events of today, but he is so glad to see me because I make it all so much better. I can see it in his face, plain as day. I rarely think much on how much I mean to these children, but I think I have never meant so much to anyone else in my life.
Ralph and I made this huge commitment so many years ago, to be with our kids 24/7 until the day they chose to leave us, and we didn’t think so much of just how many wonderful benedictions this would bring. But in my son’s step down the rain-drenched walk, the spring earth warm and fecund and with a promise – crocuses and primroses already! – I can see my time is worth something, my every moment, just someone he can hang his hopes on when the day goes awry. And today? He hurt his foot. He wasn’t feeling well. He was snubbed by a peer.
He was lonely, because I wasn’t home.
Tonight I give my husband a break from making dinner. While Phoenix studies for a biology test, Nels and I make first a salad (broccoli, basil, pecans, grapes, a lemon dressing), then a lasagna and garlic bread. At first my son is upset – he wants to be outside playing with friends. He doesn’t really want to help me cook. Soon he is wailing – hungry, angry that dinner is an hour out. But I have patience today, as a mother. I am kind and purposeful that dinner must be made. And I let him come to me. As I wash dishes I give him the territory of the sauce preparation, from chopping and sauteeing garlic, to mixing in fragrant spices. Soon he is a happy little chef, if a bit untidy. The sauce is quite good. I’ve taught him just a little about cooking. Life goes like that. A little at a time.
Parenthood has come, parts of it, come and gone so quickly. I’ve learned to slow down and really enjoy the moment instead of worrying too much. Yesterday, in a dark theatre, both kids. One kid paying attention, the other bored and doing little to conceal it. For the first blessed hour, contentment. My arms around one, then the other. My cheek in sweet, hay-smelling hair. Holding one another close. It’s not something I got to do as a teen, with my parents. It feels so special to get to have it in my life after all.