Tuck is a bike rider now, and every day involves a trip to the park. Tyler plays in the sand and happily meets other children while Tuck rides in wide, looping circles around us all. It's a really great scene, fitting for every last one of us.
(And sometimes, I bring a book. Those are the best days of all.)
Not too long ago, the scene played out like the one above, and Tuck was riding on the far corners of the park. He was well within sight, but far out of reach. These are both okay, as the boundaries are clear and he mostly stays within them.
But on this day, I suddenly saw a Parks and Recreation Truck headed straight for him. (I don't love that they can drive on sidewalks, but I suppose they must. Hence, their job in our lands of parks and recreation.) The truck was driving slowly, and Tuck was riding quickly, but they traveled the same path: directly toward one another.
They were a football field's distance from me. I could not get to him, I was afraid that the sound of my shouting would distract him from making a wise decision, and I could only wait and watch it unfold. My breath caught in my throat, as I watched.
"Please, God. Show Tucker what to do right now. Please."
And just like that, before the truck got any closer, Tuck rode his bike off the sidewalk and far into the grass. He laid down his bike, to resolve any question for the driver: "I'm staying here. You can pass me."
Way to go, sweet child. Boy who followed the rules and remembered.
When he rode his bike back to me, now in clear and danger-free zone, I heaped praise on him by the handful.
"Tuck, I was afraid as I watched you. You were so far away, and I knew I couldn't help you. So I prayed for you. I asked God to take care of you and show you what to do, and he did. That very same moment, you did the right thing."
I praised him for the decision at his end of the park, and I told him about the praying at my end of the park. Because it's never too early to teach my little boy that the Holy Spirit can guide his actions.
And quite possibly save his life.
Thank you for listening, Tuck. And thanks to you, too, Creator and Protector of my children.
Tucker came home with a half-page assignment description:
In the PreK classroom, we are learning about families.
Please create a Family Crest.
At the top, put your family's name.
One one side, show the foods your family enjoys.
On the other side, show the things your family likes to do together.
At the bottom, display pictures of your family.
A School Project. The wheels in my head began to spin. After all, I'm a (former) scrapbooker. (I say former because I switched to blogging years ago. See? On the plus side, there is much more documentation than I ever would have accomplished with acid free products. On the flip side, Tyler has nearly nothing hardbound in our house to show his arrival and first year in our family. So, you know.) Ultimately, this looked like a scrapbooking task, and I was ready to break out the colored paper, stickers, and of course the pictures.
And as I got to work, Robb said ever-so-casually, "Um, what are you doing? Why are you doing Tucker's homework?"
Gasp. I just became That Mom.
Suddenly, I had flashbacks into my classroom, when students displayed their animal reports and projects. Anyone could clearly distinguish the ones the students had been in charge of, as opposed to, well, the others. One little girl even said, "Well, first my mom found a pattern for a panda online. Then my mom went to Michael's to buy the fabric. Then my mom... then my mom... then my mom..."
See, the thing is, her mom had already finished third grade. I hadn't assigned the project for Mom to repeat it again. It was more so for her eight-year-old daughter.
And yet, suddenly, here I was: shaping my son's artwork to display my skills. Not so much his.
Awesome. That's a fun look in the ol' mirror.
So, we rerouted the plan. I began by inviting Tucker to join me at the table, since that seemed like a great place to start.
After lots of cooperation, cutting, gluing, and teamwork, I present to you: Our Family Crest.
And of course, from the other side of the kitchen table: Tyler's independent project.
We were standing around the church lobby in clusters of various sizes, our community of young families: a handful of adults - and dozens of children. While we parents talked about this, that, and the rest, our children played, played, played.
If you grew up in the church, then perhaps you remember along with me the seemingly endless hours of waiting for parents to finish their adult laughter and conversation, while you waited for the cue to head to the car. And if you're like me, you and the friends with whom you grew up made the most of those endless gab sessions, by wreaking havoc in the church lobby and sanctuary.
(I confess: I remember water fights at the drinking fountain and races on our tummies, crawling under the pews from the back of the sanctuary to the front.)
A fellow mom (and dear friend) standing beside me said, "I know we should probably stop this; there's probably something wrong with letting them run all over the place. But I just love it. I love how they all know each other, how they're having such fun together."
I affirmed: I loved it too.
And then... CRASH. All heads turned to see a ceramic pillar, knocked on its side, now laying in shattered pieces.
Um, oopsie daisy. That would be my son, the one who just turned five, standing next to the crashed pillar. He is my cautious, careful boy, and yet he was guilty of the crash, boom, shatter.
He made eye contact with me, that panicked look that says, "Oh, Mommy. I made a bit of an error in judgement. Please still stand by me, come what may."
All the parents jumped to save the scene; yes, the defendant was my son, but it could have easily been any one of the crew of dozens. Glances and quiet lectures ensued, all about church behavior, being careful, and respecting the things that don't belong to us.
And after all of that, I said, "It's okay, Buddy. It was an accident."
As we gathered the pieces of the shattered pillar, one of the church pastors walked by. We snagged him to report: "I'm afraid we've had a bit of a Young Families Incident."
He smiled, "Oh, that's okay. These things happen."
"Can we do something to replace it? What should we do?"
"You shouldn't worry about it at all. These things happen, and that's what makes a church a church."
The boys have transitioned to a new emotional process in the preschool drop off.
On the first day, Tyler was eager to join his friends, ready for me to go, and happily waved me right on out the door. Now, two weeks later, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, while he claws at my clothes and begs me to stay.
But I don't stay.
He is safe and in good hands, with a teacher I trust and a community he loves. And the kindergarten teacher in me knows that this is part of the process, he's earning his own emotional chips, and every recovery adds to his personal knowledge of who he is and what he can do. So I don't stay.
(But I do leave a good bit of my heart for him to keep until I return.)
Meanwhile, in the PreK classroom down the hall, Tucker was cautious and careful on the first day of school. He stayed close, he held my hand, and silently begged for a healthy dose of reassurance and security before I quietly slipped out the door.
Now, his heart has found a new confidence.
One day this week, I knelt down and whispered, "Hey, buddy, you're going to have a great day. You're smart and important and such a great kid, and I am so proud of you."
And he whispered, "Yep. I know. Just come back before lunchtime." And he scampered off with his friends.
On our second goodbye this week, he leaned in really close, held my face in his hands, and whispered, "Mommy, I just want you to be real careful out there today."
My sweet firstborn feels personally responsible for the safety of his family, and he learns best when he knows he has wished us well.
And so I meet all their requests: I come back, always by lunchtime, and I am always 'real careful out there.'
"Somehow Jesus mastered the art of maintaining a clear perspective while accomplishing every one of his objectives. A major reason for his being able to say he finished all the father had in mind for him is that he simplified his life.
He followed his own agenda instead of everyone else's.
He also set predetermined limits.
He chose twelve (not twelve hundred) whom he trained to carry on in his absence.
He stayed with his set of priorities without apology, which means he must have said no a score of times every month.
He balanced work and rest, accomplishment and refreshment, never feeling the need to ask permission for spending time in quietness and solitude.
He refused to be sidetracked by tempting opportunities that drained energy and time.
He was a servant of his father, not a slave of the people.
Even though misunderstood, maligned, misquoted, and opposed by numerous enemies and even a few friends, he stayed at it.
Turns out, I have a celebrity look alike: Bette Midler. And her pronouncement as my look alike did not come easily, nor without a story. It's time I went public with this nonsense.
My brother was the featured entertainment for a professional fundraising gala my dad was hosting. (Not nepotism. My brother is That Good.) I will go anywhere to see my brother do anything, but the charity tickets cost something astronomical. Instead, I signed up to 'volunteer' as an usher. I would read people's tickets and guide them to their seats, all under the guise of watching my brother perform. I just had to be okay with standing in the doorway, gesturing with an open hand, and minding the subtly lit aisle.
You betcha. Can do.
Oh, and this job of ushering came with one other agreement: A Quick Tutorial on Emergency Exits in Case of a Fire. I had inadvertantly placed myself in the theater version of an airplane emergency exit row, all just to see my brother. Still, totally worth it.
I should add: I hadn't really planned to be an usher. I had only planned to look busy and watch my brother. Or hide in a corner and watch my brother. You see the common denominator, I'm sure.
Well, along came the Meeting of the Ushers. The Head Usher, a woman who most assuredly took her job too seriously - I mean, what are the odds of a fire-related emergency, really?? - gathered us all around her for a verbal presentation. Had she the technology, I'm sure she would have elaborated with PowerPoint.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your job is to stand at the doorway, collect tickets, and guide people to their seats. Should there be an emergency, we are counting on your undying faithfulness to get these cherished guests out of the building safely."
(Yada, yada, yada, yeah, yeah. Right. My brother's on stage soon. Can you wrap this up?)
She continues, "The emergency exits are here, here, here, and --"
She stops. Cold. Mid sentence. She zeroes in on me.
"Oh. My. Heavens. Has anyone EVER told you that you look EXACTLY like Bette Midler?? Wow. It's uncanny, really."
And just as quickly, she was back on topic, gesturing with an open hand to all the emergency exits. But her little tirade had given her just a few seconds to photograph my face, file my mugshot into her Bette Midler file, and keep close tabs on me all night.
I had not meant for anyone to keep close tabs on me that night. I wanted to be invisible; I wanted to watch my brother and only pretend to be altruistic and servant minded. But she kept finding me in my off-task state. She continued to lead me by the hand to my subtly lit aisle.
And she called me Bette.
(Not Amy Adams? Julia Roberts? Meg Ryan in her early years? Nope. Bette. The Wind Beneath My Wings.)