I just can’t believe he’s five years old.
I can still see the lines on the Dollar General pregnancy test so clearly. You know, the dollar tests with the dropper. I was in college and very poor #nojudgementzone. I can still feel the knot in my stomach as we told my parents – and see the smiles on their faces and happy tears in their eyes as they heard the news. My son John. Five years old in the blink of an eye.
Nothing quite says summertime here in MO like county fairs, livestock auctions, and tractor pulls. My oldest kids are at the magical age of being tall enough to ride the “big kid” rides for the first time ever.
“Let’s ride the scrambler!”
“No, the swings!”
“Yeah! The swings! Mommy, will you ride with me?”
Sure, baby. He still thinks I’m cool, check. I wait in line with John and my niece who’s a few years older. What is it about older cousins that’s just so cool. The swings fly through the air as we watch from a few feet away, he’s nervous/exited. I know that look. Still time to back out.
The ride stops, everyone gets off, and they open the gate. Our turn, he walks right in and stops.
“You’ll sit behind me. Right, Mommy?”
We choose our seats, I buckle him in and then me. I’m excited too, this is nostalgia city for me. What a blessing to grow up in the country and have such big memories of small pleasures.
The ride starts. I can see his little legs and feet hanging down below the seat in front of me and a few whisps of hair sticking up from the top. As we gain some speed, I kick forward and grab the back of his seat.
“Right behind ya baby, you excited?”
We’re really moving now, flying through the air. Even though it’s July and humid as ever, the weather is perfect. It’s cooler today than it has been the past week. There’s a breeze too. Summertime perfection.
I look forward, and call his name. He turns around with the biggest smile on his face, bright blue eyes wide.
“Woo hoo Mommy!”
“Spread your arms out like this, it feels like you’re flying!”
He does. Right then and there it happens. My sweet boy, arms spread wide, flying weightlessly through the air, experiencing something new – pure joy. This is what motherhood is made of. Not perfect Etsy outfits, Pinterest worthy birthday parties, not posed family photos, or that highlight reel we all play on social media. This. The Good stuff, the cheap stuff – good ole fashioned fun.
I swing through the air in a complete state of joy, motherly bliss watching my baby. But only for a minute. And then it happens. Disaster. As I’m looking at the back of his seat I notice the creaking bolts. I picture a few coming loose, the chain connecting his swing to the ride snapping away. And his little body flying through the air. He’s screaming my name. I’m still flying around in a circle, buckled into my seat, helpless. I look around for sources of his demise. A trailer hitch, maybe he’d be impailed. Thats unlikely. He’d probably collide with one of the rides on either side of us. There’s no way his little body could survive that. I move each hand to one of the two straps that hold me in my seat. I wonder how fast I could get these unbuckled to jump out? Probably not very.
Why did I think this was a good idea? He’s way too little for rides like this, he was barely tall enough. We should have stayed at the tractor pull.
About 15 seconds has passed since I fabricated images in my mind of my child flying out of his swing to meet his death. And then it happens.
“Mommy, this is AWESOME!”
I snap out of it. The weather really is beautiful. He’s still smiling, arms spread wide. I smile too, unwrap my knuckles from the straps, and it’s back. Joy.
We do this as mothers. In our most joyful moments, the moments our dreams come true, we find ourselves suddenly imagining the worst case scenario.
Brené Brown references standing over your sleeping child so in love – and immediately picturing something horrific happening to them.
It’s that feeling of
“What have I done to possibly deserve this much love and happiness?”
The protective mechanism of not allowing ourselves to sit in joy long enough to really feel it, for fear that it be taken away.
It’s – “I’m not good enough.”
Some would say that graditude and joy are the antidotes to shame. I agree, kind of.
I’d say: Jesus is joy. Gratitude is praising Him. So Jesus is the antidote the shame.
“For we all have sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and beleive in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by beleiving in your heart that you will be made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Finding worthiness, redemption, and joy in God by embracing an attitude of gratitude has saved me from a life of catastrophisizing, anxiety, and self-sabotage on the cusp of happiness.
We walk back to the tractor pull. Vivi sees me and does her signature running jump into my arms.
“Ride a ride with ME Mommy!”
“Sure, baby, whatcha wanna ride?”
She points to the Umbrella ride, the highest ride on the midway.
We wait in line, they open the gate, but she’s not tall enough. Just misses it by a few inches. The man at the gate gives her a wink and motions us in anyway.
It’s dark now and when we reach the top I can see the lights from the whole midway shining in her big green eyes. She looks out, huge grin on her face, says “This is AMAZING” and starts to hum a little tune.
She always hums, I’ll never forget this. Then it happens.
I hear a creak, our umbrella flies off of the ride, my baby girl is gone. Why did I do This? She wasn’t tall enough..
I snap out of it. I am grateful for this moment with my daughter. I guess you could say I’m a work in progress.
Finding joy and giving in to happiness. Thank you, Kelly Brinkmann, for your insight, encouragement, subtle nudges at forks in the road, and for your friendship.