Mommyhood is a fun place. Many, many humorous things happen. Obviously, this blog is evidence of that fact. Hilarity ensues all around us.
However, then there are those times that are not at all funny. There are those times that make your heart stop beating for just a moment and fill you with fear and shame and terror all at the same time to degrees unfathomable before the arrival of children.
Tonight was one of those nights.
I was making dinner while Sean took the kids outside to play. When I started to set the table, I hollered out back for everyone to come in and wash up. A few moments later, Joshua came bounding in, jabbering away about school and this and that. Anna came in shortly after having some sort of emotional crisis - I honestly don't remember what it was, she is at the age where everything is DRAMA. While I was talking to her in the living room, Sean appeared in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes about dinner and whatnot. Then came the words that stopped us in our tracks:
Sean asked "Where's Matthew?"
I stared back at him and said "I haven't seen him, what do you mean, where is he?"
Sean replied, "No, I sent him in with Anna."
I answered back, "I have not seen him, I thought he was in the kitchen behind you."
A split second that lasted a lifetime passed between us as we realized that, at that moment, we had no idea where our two-year-old son was.
This was bad enough in itself, but our panic was enhanced by three specific facts:
1. We live on one of the busiest streets in our town.
2. Our "driveway" is actually a parking lot shared with a grocery store.
3. Our house backs up to an alley through which people regularly shoot in and out without looking where they are going.
Sean immediately shot out the back door, while I was at the front door in two strides. Anna and Joshua, sensing the urgency of the moment, followed their father. As I gripped the front door handle, I heard a sound that simultaneously brought both senses of relief and horror - the unmistakable sound of a toddler sobbing in fear.
I wrenched the door open and, sure enough, there was Matthew, his little tear-stained face staring up at me with an expression I never want to see again.
As I scooped him up, he clung to me, and cried out in between sobs: "You YEFT me!" (Translation: "You LEFT me!")
I brought him in the house, shouting to the others that he had been found. Sean came bounding over, absolutely grief-stricken. Matthew looked up and him and cried out, hiccupping with sobs "YOU DIDN'T COME BACK FOR ME!"
Through the cries and the soothing, we pieced together what had happened. Sean told Anna and Matthew to go inside and, thinking that they had, turned around to pick up the toys. Matthew waited for his daddy, but then Daddy, thinking Matthew was already inside, headed in without him, leaving the little guy in the yard by himself, wondering what to do next.
We held Matthew together until he got squirmy and asked if he could go eat dinner now. Then Sean and I had to hold and soothe each other. (If you think of it, pray for my husband - he feels totally guilty about the whole thing, and I don't want it to haunt him.)
So...not our finest moment of parenting. I still shake a little thinking back on it, but writing about it is therapeutic, and it gives me the chance to reflect back and think so, God...what do you want me to see?
(Besides the obvious - always know where your toddler is!)
As I look back on it, I marvel on how my daily prayers for protection for my children are answered. This was just an incident I know about - what about all those times I won't know about, this side of heaven? Dangers face our children each and every day. Sometimes they are from our own mistakes, and sometimes they are just part of the world in which we live. I remember the first day I was home alone with Joshua as an infant - I literally froze in fear on my bed holding him, and we sat there for two hours while I thought of every horror that could come to him. It about did me in right then and there - and I only had one child!
Our children are not our own. They belong to God first and foremost. We can create the safest, most nurturing environment imaginable - one in which our toddler would NEVER be accidently left outside - and still, trouble can befall us. And the fact is...we are not perfect. Accidents happen. We think our child is one place when he is in another. We forget to buckle their seatbelts or hold their hand while crossing the street.
We also cannot shield them from all fear. I never want to see that kind of fear on the face of any of my children ever again. But I can't promise that won't happen. I can't make it not happen. The truth is, they will feel fear and pain in this world. I can't keep them from it.
So - what do we do? Do we stay paralyzed on the bed, refusing to move with our infants in our arms, hoping to keep them from all harm?
We slowly crawl off the edge of the bed and walk around the house. We let them crawl on the floor. We take them outside to play and let them run and learn and grow.
And how do we do that without gasping in fear for their lives?
We learn to let go and give it to God.
I do not know how any mother gets through a single moment of their day without having a trust in God. I really do not know how that could be possible. The only reason I am able to get up in the morning and breathe through my day is that I trust that, no matter what happens, ultimately God has my family in the palm of His hand, and there is no safer place to be. No matter what terror may come, no matter what horror befalls our family, God's way is the best way, and I have to trust Him utterly with the lives of my children, or else I can't move. I'd be sick every day, worrying that something would happen. I'd lock the door and hold them in and never let them out into the world to fulfill the priceless destinies they have.
I choose to trust in the Lord my God and His plans for my children. He gave them as gifts to me and my husband - and we choose to surrender them back to Him. This does not guarantee nothing bad will ever happen to them. It doesn't even guarantee that we will never make a mistake again. But it does guarantee that, no matter what, my God has my children in the palm of His hands. There is no better place in any world for them.
I choose to lay down my claim to their lives and trust in God alone for their safety.
And finally, I choose to leave this blog and go curl up with my two-year-old, who is at this moment safely snuggled in my bed next to his daddy - a daddy I would not trade for all the daddies in the world. I choose to curl up by his side, kiss his face, smell his sleep-scent, and go to sleep, thanking God that I get the privilege of being Matthew's Mom for one more day.
It's more than I could ever hope to ask for.
He's in the arms of His Heavenly Father, and I would have it no other way.