Who am I?
How do I live greater purpose?
When is the time for more?
As I lived that span asking these questions to the walls and the wind, I sent my oldest child to school after letting home be his eleven-year learning ground. I graduated my youngest child from kindergarten. I experienced my final day teaching my second child, bittersweet to the core of my heart. I gained a high-schooler who out-grew me months ago. Milestones don't wait for mothers to know who they're going to be next.
This summer, my youngest figured out swimming. I no longer sit poolside watching all three, turning my head to view one, missing the achievements of another. I only slather sunscreen on one. I don't keep my eye on the kiddie pool anymore at all. To watch him incorporate side-breathing into his front crawl simultaneously sends waves of pride and lament. A great swell of 'He can do it!' is instantly shattered on the rocks of '...without me.'
And, for the first time, there's no one coming up behind him to soften the blow of these last things. No one else is waiting, wiggling, on the sidelines for his chance at being big.
On this day, there was a little boy; moving soon into three, flaxen hair, striped swim trunks knocking him mid-shin, dimpled elbows swinging with his puffy running feet. He wanted to move the pool chair over to his mama. Sweet determination in him, he found an empty one by my feet and mustered his toddler strength to lift it. I smiled at his strength of will. I've seen that so many times.
But the chair bested him, attacking his toe leaving the sweet one to declare defeat as toddlers do so well. I giggled privately; just one of many defeats, little man. You'll get it one day if not today.
His mother tenderly came to him. His words came out with a cry, "Kiss it!" And she did. And the world was made right again, mama moving the chair for him to sit at her side. I smiled; their preciousness always trumps their pain.
And in one instant -- a splash, a drop, a flash -- my inner giggle turned to outward sob. Tears formed behind my sunglasses before I could turn to see who was the woman crying at the side of the pool? From the depths of my memory, all my toddler boys and their defeats, I knew I'd never be able to kiss something and make it better again. That they all could make things better with their own strength of will and character. They all could get from one side to the other, breathe as necessary, pull and kick and get somewhere.
I sensed the weight of all the years' battles lifted at once; the struggles and fights had all been won. The self-consciousness, the worry the exasperation and fatigue -- all defeated and, in that moment, all counted as victories. Future struggles would belong to them. I'd be at the side, watching, smiling a private smile and offering a prayerful boost.
Under the shade of locust tree, morning breeze blowing my graying hair, I was caught up. I'm quite certain that the breeze took with it all the curative power held in my aging body and moved it into my young son, gasping his way across the pool with determination and with strength.