Doggies are king in my home these days. “Dada,” my son calls them. Whether it’s a fussy diaper change or refusal to wear his pants, all it takes is a reminder that we can’t go out and play with the doggies without either, and, instantly, I’ll see his eyes light up. We’ll be out the door in thirty seconds or less.
The other day at the park, he was mesmerized by a pair of beautiful golden retrievers. They were playing with a ball, and he clearly wanted to go and say hi. He took a few steps forward, and stopped. Looking back at me, he held his hand out and said, “Hand. Walk.”
My heart melted.
Of course I will hold your hand, honey. Let’s go and say hi. He grasped my hand tightly, took a few slow steps by my side, and then let go of my hand running off towards the puppies.
How foolish of me to think I had a few good years of walking hand-in-hand with my little boy. It was lovely while it lasted – all of 10 seconds – and he was off. He just needed me there long enough to give him the courage to approach the unfamiliar faces, and once he felt comfortable, I was left in his miniature shadow.
I suppose it serves as a gentle reminder for me. This moment is fleeting. This phase is brief. He won’t be my baby forever. He won’t need me forever.
I look into his eyes and think to myself, I’m okay with being in your shadows. It means I’m always there; sometimes I’ll lead, sometimes I’ll follow, and sometimes we’ll walk side-by-side. When you’re busy exploring this complicated world, you won’t think twice about me. You won’t look back to see if I’m still there. Because you won’t need to. You’ll know.
And, suddenly, it occurs to me. Being a mother means being invisible and forever in the shadows – no different than my own mother; she may be absent in sight, but her presence resonates every fibre of my being. She is distant in miles, but somehow I feel her warmth on my skin, her hands run through my hair, her scent lingers in the air, and her voice hums in the silence. I don’t look back to see if she’s still there. Because I don’t need to. I know.
Here I am, all grown up. I’ve let go of her hand, and run off.
If I’ve done a good job of raising you, you, too, will let go of my hand and run. You’ll run far and you’ll run fearlessly. You’ll run knowing that I’m not far behind. But, as you climb those sky-high mountains and swim the depths of the oceans, remember this one thing. If ever there is a doubt in your mind, the slightest inkling of uncertainty, hold out your hand and say, “Hand. Walk.”
No matter how old you get, my heart will melt just the same.