A mother watches her growing son and shares a prayer for the man he will become.
Not-so-little feet stand in size eight sandals between us. Some would say your feet are little now. I remember when they were little. They have grown, just like your hands, your legs, your arms, your everything. No, your feet are big for a two year old.
A two year old?
Where did the time go between your first earthmoving cry and today, with you standing on your own accord between your father and me? It slipped away all too quickly, nonchalantly even. That is what time is supposed to do I guess. Its only job is to fall like sand in an hour glass. Yet, time didn’t fall, it plopped. And we went from newborn to two in a few short heartbeats, in far too few goodnight kisses, and even less good morning hugs. It went quietly, for had it been loud, I would have begged it to slow down. Alas, it sashayed away silently.
It’s Sunday morning and we’re standing outside on the church’s porch. You haven’t yet decided whether you want to go in the nice air conditioned building or stay outside with your daddy. You look toward him and then toward me, not really sure what to do. You take one step forward to him, then stand still. You look toward me, but remain where you are. You are neither here nor there.
After coaxing and prodding, you decide with much reservation to accompany me inside. We find a pew to accommodate us all and sit down. You are in my lap, just the way this Mama likes it. I hug you and kiss your cheek. I know there isn’t much time left that you’ll want to sit in my lap. You’ll be too big for that soon. You’ll want your own seat, then your own space, and finally, your own life.
Daddy comes in and takes his normal seat beside us. We continue to sit in our cozy way, with you in my lap. Before long, though, you become restless and hop down. Sitting still is hard when you’re two. You walk the small space between our pew and the next for a while. That becomes boring almost as soon as you start it. You don’t really care for small spaces where you can’t run full force. You look for other means of entertainment.
Your form of church entertainment has varied greatly in your short life. One Sunday, you decided to do a complete somersault off one of the steps leading to the pulpit. Daddy was already half way to the front of the church when you tumbled off and was there to meet you at the first whimpers. You were fine, of course, and running around again after about thirty seconds.
Then, there was the time you somehow managed to get your hands dirty the way little boys are prone to do. Instead of letting me wipe them, though, you proceeded to let everyone know how upsetting it was to you. You walked the center aisle of the church with your hands in the air loudly proclaiming, “dirt.” Smiles beamed on either side of the church house as you went on your merry way. The Pastor even used your “dirt” to make a point in the sermon.
Today, you are more calm than normal. At least, you haven’t tried to break free from our pew. Instead, you rest your back on the furthest edge of our seat and put your feet on the one in front of you. You are neither sitting on our pew nor climbing on the next one. Once again, you are neither here nor there.
It is in this moment of you being neither here nor there it dawns on me how true that is. You are not a baby anymore. Your milestones of rolling, crawling, and taking those first steps are mere history for you now. You can feed yourself, more or less, with some food ending up on the carpet. You went from pointing to verbalizing your wants and needs. You are even letting go of your diapers for pull-ups. These are all feats you have managed to accomplish and have taken you from being a baby to the state of the neither here nor there I see you in now.
You are not yet a child, though you want to be. I watch with your older cousins. You observe and imitate their movements. Your red-headed temper flares up when you’re not allowed to do exactly what they do. You see yourself like they are and can’t understand why they can do some things you can’t. You want to be a grown up like them, because you don’t see yourself as little anymore. You’re a big boy. At least, you think you are.
When I try to help you with anything, you get upset. You’re stubborn, or should I say determined. You want to do it your way all by yourself. When you can’t, you’d rather not do it at all. You are an independent, fiery little boy, and I love you for being that way. Your passion greatly exceeds your years and I stand in amazement every time it is displayed. I am more than proud to call you my son.
As a mother, though, I want to keep you in the neither here nor there as long as I can. You’re not a baby, but you’re not a big boy, yet. You are like baby bear soup — in the middle and just right. You are starting to form sentences and ideas all your own. You are old enough to listen to what I say, when you want to. You know how things are supposed to work, but in your world, they don’t have to always work the way they’re meant to. You make everything into what you want it to be.
A book isn’t just a book to you; it can be a phone or a road for your car. A blanket isn’t just for when you’re cold; it’s a fort to hide from the Mommy Monster and my tickles. A fishing pole isn’t just for catching magnetic fish; it’s for drinking water out of the bath tub when you break it apart. You look at what you have around you and make it what you want it to be. Very seldom does disappointment find you because of this. When it does, it’s just a summer storm that quickly passes. The sun comes out again and your smile is brighter than ever when you set off on your next adventure.
One day, soon enough, you will be big. You will scold me under your breath for embarrassing you in front of your friends. And the dreaded day will come when you won’t let me kiss you before school. When we reach that line drawn in the sand, tears will fill my eyes and memories will flood my mind.
I will remember all the little things, like how fresh green beans aren’t really beans, but “nuts”, and you like to eat them raw. My heart will relive the nights you fell asleep holding my hair. I will shake my head as I replay your tantrums over in my mind. And I will remember you the way you are now.
I look at over at you again. You are still resting awkwardly with your back on our pew and your feet on the one in front of us. You have no knowledge you are neither here nor there at this moment, both in stature and in life. You don’t realize you are on the cusp of boyhood. But I do, and it brings me great joy coupled with great sadness. Still, I can’t help but smile.
Without any warning, you fall to your knees. Before I can grab your feet and pull you back, you’re gone. You rise to your feet in front of the next pew with a sneaky grin painted on your face. You run as fast as you can to the bathroom exclaiming “pot.”
I smile and go to meet you at the door.
Just as quickly as you escaped our pew, you will leave the neither here nor there and enter life as a big boy. You will no longer need to hold my hand when going down the stairs. You won’t hold my hair to fall asleep and our dance sessions will probably cease. You’ll be too cool to dance with Mama.
When that day comes, though, I want you to smile at the rain still. Laugh when you fall. Always get back up and try again. Keep singing in the car, even if you’re silly. Especially if you’re silly. Make everything a game the way you do now and don’t care if you win or lose. The fun is in playing.
When that day comes, keep saying your prayers when your “nummies” become real food. Continue raising your hands in praise. Follow your Dad to the altar sometimes. Look forward to church singing. Don’t outgrow God. He won’t outgrow you.
When that day comes, I want you to hold onto to the heart you have today. Don’t let it harden or close, but keep it soft and open. Keep it full of hope, because you’ll need it to conquer the sadness that life sometimes brings. Keep a place for me there, too, because I can help with the sadness.