"Mommy, I really have to go potty," says the tall one who is nearly ready for kindergarten.
The shorter one, with downy red hair and a spirit all his own, is playing quite contentedly in the restaurant playground. He shall not be moved.
And yet the tall one must go. Must. Go.
I debate in my mind. Do I take Tyler away from his concentrated imagining, demand his compliance, and traipse him to the bathroom?
Do I ask Tucker to please, please just wait a few minutes? We'll go, all of us, in just a while?
Tucker says, "Hey, I have an idea. How about if I just go by myself? I promise to be so careful, to wash my hands, and to come right back. Okay, Mommy?"
The truth is, I would have been confronted with this dilemma even if Robb were alive. But his absence seems so vast in moments like these. A boy cannot always go to the bathroom with his mom. And he's four short months away from turning six. At some point... at some point...
At some point.
"Okay, kiddo. Come right back."
I watch him walk with confidence, navigating tables, trash cans, and people until he makes it to the boys bathroom in the back of the restaurant.
And my mind begins to race with the stories I've heard of things that happen to unaccompanied children in seemingly safe places.
I watch Tyler climb and play.
I pray for Tucker.
"God, be the Defender of the weak. Be the Father to the fatherless. Give me wisdom with the one I can see, and protect the one who is out of my sight."
Really, that's what I pray every single day. Begging the words again and again, even when my mind has stopped hearing the words. My heart still breathes them.
Minutes passed. More minutes. Too many.
Or maybe not an inordinate amount. But too many for my comfort.
And he came back. In one piece. Undisturbed, untouched.
"Mommy? Want to smell my hands? All clean."
(Who in their right mind wants to smell a little boy's hands when he has returned from the bathroom? Well, I do. They know I'll ask, so they always use soap. A risk, I know. But it has only backfired a couple of times.)
"Way to go, sweet boy." I ruffle his hair as he runs to join his brother.
We did it.
One more first.