A few days ago, I found this…this sweet little baby-faced photo of Cole.
My eyes filled up with tears. I made him come sit next to me on the couch. He reluctantly (or not) curled up on my lap, and I squeezed him. I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to go back to that moment.
His hand acting as an airplane, I can hear him making the engine noises with his mouth. It’s taking off into air the same way our plane had just taken off and delivered us back to Virginia so we could load up in the car with my family for our annual trip to the Outer Banks. He loved to play airplane. He loved everything about flying.
His sippy cup sitting next to him on the beach chair was never far from his side. Every single time we got in the car, he made his request. Bear Bear. Other Bear Bear. Passy. Sippy Cup.
The red birth mark on his arm he happily named his Boo Boo is so visible. Today it is just a shadow on his arm. He loved his boo boo. He loved his boo boo so much he used a red marker to draw boo boos on his favorite stuffed cow chair.
I see these photos of my smiley three-year old Cole, and my heart smiles. But my heart also aches a little. Did I love him enough? Was I the mom he needed me to be when he was three? Did I take the time to really enjoy that stage of his life? I was newly divorced. I was growing up. I was figuring out who I was, what I valued, and what was important to me. Because of that sweet little face, I made the decision to leave a marriage. I knew I had to show him what real love looked like. I knew I needed to find a healthy relationship so he would grow up with a positive example of a real partnership.
When I gave birth to him, he taught me so much. He exposed everything vulnerable in my life. Although I am his mother, I can’t help but feel like he raised me during the first three years of his life. Every tough choice I made in my life, I made for him. He may never know that. But I hope when he looks back on his childhood, he remembers love. I hope he remembers growing up in a household (or two households) with two (really four) loving parents.
I know I can’t change things from those early years of his life (and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to). But I know that I can love him now the way he needs to me to love him. Isn’t that the point of parenting? I will always love him the very best I can at every stage of his life. And I will always hope I don’t screw it up too badly. And I’ll always strive to love him the way he needs to be loved instead of loving him the way I need to love him.
Five years from now who knows what will replace the airplanes, the bear bears, the other bear bears, the passy, and the sippy cup. Like the boo boo on his arm, the past eight years of his life will fade. The memories will be just another shadow on his arm or faint memory on his mind. I hope he loves those memories as much as he loved the boo boo on his arm. I hope he wants to recreate them in other aspects of his life. And I hope he remembers love. Lots and lots of love.
Because of him, my heart will always know how to love and how to receive love. Lots and lots of love. I hope I can teach him the same lesson.