When I came into work on Monday morning my hair still smelled of Sunday night’s campfire. I had washed it, but the smokey smell clung. Tucked into the back woods of Virginia we had cooked up a storm of hotdogs, burgers, boys at their battle stations, and s’mores. Fellowship by firelight with a bunch of families. Delicious.
And even after the bedtime scrub down checking the boys for ticks and then following with my own wash, rinse and repeat, the smoke lingered.
It was great.
Because this Monday I took Sunday night to work with me. In my memory, long hair, and the flesh-and-blood form of my four-year-old son. A public holiday from preschool, but a work day nontheless for mama, Jackson donned his bomber jacket and joined me in the fray.
We started it off right with a breakfast date: powdered sugar on top of French toast on top of scrambled eggs on top of bacon. It was almost unsettling to have such focused time with him and his bright blue eyes without the constant distraction of a 22-month-old breathing down my neck. We chatted and giggled nervously and whispered our “I love you’s” over tea that he pronounced, “sooo good.”
It warmed me in that spot that is between a mother’s heart and her tummy. Right in the baby gut. Because as I sat and listened to him talk, describing definitively why he would prefer to be a panda bear as opposed to a polar bear (due to their respective choices in climate) I realized that he is not my baby anymore. He is becoming my boy on his way to becoming his own boy.
He wouldn’t hold my hand when we crossed the street on the way back to the office.
He wouldn’t let me zip up his jacket.
He shows me his muscles and wows me with the length of his legs, tippy toes nearly touching the end of the bed. He is growing up and proud of it. There seems to be an ocean vast and deep between three years old and four. My little wants-to-be-a-man needs me to help him on that journey.
So I step back and watch when I wish I could help. I watch him battle his way through introductions to strangers, power struggles between friends and the understanding of what it means to lie and what it means to tell the truth. We practice prayer together. And I cling to the Father’s reassurance that my few hours of intense parenting will make up for the many more we spend apart; that I am called to these early mornings and my daily commute as an act of sacrifice for my family:
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family.
I drive a lot. Ironically, it’s not that far. Rather, I measure the distance in the square foot of gridlock it takes to get from home to work and back again. The scenery is remarkable. But it can lose some of its charm when you are watching it go by in slow motion.
But tomorrow when I drive, I will have that powdered sugar face and those inquiring blue eyes in mind. The extra perspective on my ordinary commute. And Jackson, my love, I would drive a thousand miles for you.