Maybe it was the ridiculous hour of the night (morning?). Maybe it was the exhaustion of 3 weeks postpartum–there is really nothing like that kind of tired. Maybe it was the discomfort of hooking myself up to a hospital-grade breast pump every 2 hours around the clock–in addition to then bottle-feeding–because I was convinced that was what “good” moms did. Maybe it was the big feelings every time I looked at or touched or kissed my new little boy. Maybe (probably) it was all of those things put together. I was sitting on the floor in the living room of our cozy little apartment, attached in all my glory to a milking machine, watching a news story about survivors of the shooting at Columbine High School. That tragic day was still fresh, a mere couple of months in the past. My insides felt all jumpy and nervous…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
I held all 26 lbs of that 14-month old ALL DAY LONG. 9/11/2001. I cried a lot. I couldn’t take my eyes off the television. Or my baby. I loved our little life of bouncy balls and bubbles, board books and fruit snacks. I had this dreadful feeling that it wouldn’t last forever…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
Joseph was eating up kindergarten. LOVED it. The learning, the lunchbox, the friends, the recess. Everything was so golden! And then “playground talk” started. You know what “playground talk” is. It’s kindergarten for “locker room talk”. Which led to some “mom and dad talk”. That was hard, a sliver of innocence lost…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
I pep-talked the heck out of that move. “It’s just across town! You can see your friends anytime!” “Making new friends is so fun! By the time you get to junior high, you are going to know everyone!” And then I just crossed my fingers and prayed like heck that I wasn’t making a liar out of myself. Being the new kid in 5th grade was not his most favorite thing…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
Smarty McSmartypants. Sometimes I give my kids ego-boosting nicknames. Just about everything in school came easy for Joseph. But then along came 5th grade, and math got…hard. Confusing. Complicated. And for the next 8 years, it stayed that way. Honors, AP, and dual-enrollment in every other subject. But math was his vice. Sometimes it didn’t matter how well he crushed it at anything else. That struggle was hard on us both…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
There were teachers that didn’t appreciate his humor and wit. There were birthday parties he didn’t get invited to. There were girls he liked that didn’t like him back. There were lost soccer games and swimming races. There were pet funerals and poison ivy. Injuries and disappointments of all kinds. And always, there was the pleading of my heart…”Please, world. Be kind to my boy.”
I suppose my mother heart will never quite give up that yearning. Watching your little people become big people is a spectacular show, one I am grateful beyond measure to get to witness 5 times. The fierce desire to protect them, to give them all the joy and abundance of this life, is a feeling I have grown accustomed to. But that front-row seat to disappointment, heartache, and struggle has taught me that my wishes for all the good and only good and nothing but the good were too shallow. I see now the man he is becoming, and I am forced to acknowledge that pain taught him valuable things my love and protection could not.
Last week I scanned a sea of red caps and gowns, searching for the double-cowlick that is technically on the back of his head, but feels imprinted on my heart. He is taking steps out into that unkind world, far from my physical reach. On the dawn of a new stage of life/motherhood, I found my heart chanting a new plea (which really feels more like a statement of fact, if you know Joseph)…”Please, my boy. Be kind to the world.”