It was a sweltering hot Saturday. After days of what felt like endless rain we woke that morning to shuffle around town from soccer, to ballet, to errand running and eventually landed at home. On our way in through the neighborhood we passed a house down the street throwing a party with one of those huge inflatable waterslides.
“I wish we were friends with them!”
While I know in the moment you were just after those kids’ waterslide I’m reminded of your love for people. You haven’t quite refined the skill of friend-making. You really love people, you love feeling connected to people, and you thrive when anyone spends time with you one-on-one. Your heart is a little sensitive because you love so hard but in due time you’ll learn to balance your emotions long enough to get through the rough parts of getting to know a person.
“Hey, mom! Do you think we could take our pool out? Maybe skip rest time?”
Let’s pause this day and live in this hour. Your dad and I have a habit of planning away bits of the weekend to spend doing as many tasks around the house as we can manage in the time it takes for you and your sister to watch a movie, nap, or do some other project that isolates you from what we have going on. It feels like maybe we’re doing that wrong. At least too often.
We pulled in the driveway and immediately got to work. Your dad dragged out the pool from the garage while I laid down your baby brother for nap.
“SWIMSUITS AND SUNSCREEN!”
You waited patiently downstairs while Adelaide piddled around with who knows what. You’ve been afraid to be upstairs or downstairs by yourself for some time. You’ll go on your own if you must but you do everything you can to avoid it and so often your sister is happy to oblige, sometimes she even fetches things for you so you don’t have to bother. She loves you so much.
“I found my special sunscreen, mom! Can you help me? I’m so excited!”
This was only the second time in almost a year that you’d be in need of sunscreen. As last summer came to an end you developed such an intense allergy to typical sunscreens, thankfully your doctor found one, a “special” one, that we use just for you. It goes on so thick. I hadn’t noticed it the first time we used it but it seemed much more water-resistant than any typical sunscreen.
I’d notice it later.
Fast forward about an hour, past some splashing and popsicles. You found yourself in time out.
You’d pushed your sister into the pool of water from the top of only three steps toward the slide but rather than pushing her toward the slide you shoved toward the steps and, I’m sure you can hear the ringing of her screams in your memories as she fell awkwardly and painfully back into the pool.
You meant it in jest, as you usually do. It’s hard to remember safety when you’re having a good time. I assume it’s probably hard for most little boys. I know it’s hard for you, the more fun you’re having the wilder your arms fling in the air, the louder your laughter gets, and the harder it must be to hear mom’s pleas for an ounce of tranquility.
So there you are, standing on the front porch, frustrated to find yourself stuck out of the water. I call you over to me to discuss the “why?”. The worst part of time out, the time when I get to talk in circles around what brought us to that point until I sense some sincere connection you’ve made to what I’m saying.
You weren’t listening.
You weren’t even looking at me.
I found myself unusually patient this weekend. I’ve been praying for patience. Patience and grace.
Realizing I haven’t yet started talking and that I don’t seem upset, “That’s the greenest lizard I’ve ever seen,” you spoke quietly. You’re capable of being so gentle. You have a gentleness I yearn for in my own being.
I stared at your face. The water droplets laying so gently on your cheeks caught my eye. How could those water droplets be so lucky? So lucky to sit upon your cheeks, still, in that moment, those droplets so lucky to know your calm. Often times I feel reminded that I know you best. Aside from your creator, no one knows you better than mom. For now, no one quite knows how gently you can love. Those water drops on your cheeks got to see you the way I see you and there they sat frozen on your cheeks. Frozen so as not to disturb your wonder as you lock in on that lizard, the greenest lizard you ever saw. You love color, you love animals, and you love discovering something for the first time.
I ask you if I can take your picture.
“Of course. Whatever you want, mom.”
I return with my camera and quickly snap the photo realizing the water drops, in my mind frozen in awe of you, are really just water drops all the same, dissipating right in their place as water drops would, frozen temporarily by your “special” sunscreen.
“Can I see my picture?”
Of course you can, Noah! I love the way you love pictures.
“Mom. the photos you take remind me of movies I love.”
I’m not sure what that meant, but I know it meant something lovely.
A kiss on the cheek and off you went.
“Be gentle with your sister, Noah!” I hollered after you, remembering that, ironically enough, you seem more capable of gentleness than anyone I know. A secret only I know.