Last week I brought my teenaged son to the doctor for a routine check up. We sat in the hallway waiting for the nurse to come and get us, squeezed into one little chair in the busy corridor. Laughing and talking in hushed whispers with our knees together, we enjoyed our time alone without the other kids. I miss him these days with his busy schedule. We conversed easily – I was grateful for his company.
As he was explaining to me how a basketball bracket works (I didn’t really want to know, but he was willing to talk, and when he WANTS to chat, I’ll listen to anything he says), we could hear the wailing cries of a baby receiving immunizations a couple of doors down. It was a sound so familiar to me…it broke my heart to hear this little one in such twisted agony, albeit temporary. (I’m pretty sure my milk would have let down had I had any. Mamas, am I right?!)
A few moments later the crying stopped, and I squeezed my boy’s hand tightly, remembering.
Just then, the nurse stepped out and walked past us. In her arms, she held that sweet cherub of a baby, his breath shuddering and jagged, his lip quivering with hurt. His little naked little bum resting on a blue hospital pad nestled into the palm of her hand, his knees curled up into his chest and pushed into her breasts, his ear pressed against her collarbone, gripping her shoulder, tears flowing from his narrowed eyes and glossing his blotchy cheeks…he looked straight through my heart.
My breath caught in my chest and I started to cry. Not the quiet, sappy-part-of-a-movie cry, but the gut-punch, tears-rolling-off-your-chin-and-onto-your-shirt kind of cry. It was so sudden, so swiftly powerful. I glanced over at my manchild and was instantly torn between gratitude and sadness.
My son had stopped talking and was smiling at the baby, and he looked over at me with a grin that comes to the face of anyone seeing a baby in such a state. Seeing my tears, his smile was replaced with a look of shock, and with concern in his voice…”Oh my gosh, mom, are you ok???”
Just then, his nurse walked down the hall to get us. She saw me, saw the passing baby, and lowered her bifocals down her nose as she held his chart. She tightened her knowing smile, looked at me with kindness, and just nodded. She knew. Because she’s known my kiddo since the day he was born. She was the nurse to administer those same immunizations to my cherub boy’s thighs, heard those same cries and dried those same shuddering tears.
In one instant, I was right back there – unsure, in love, sleepless, full of milk and tears and emotions. And all it took was one little moment in the dr’s office to evidence how far we’ve come.
When he pulls out of the driveway and his furrowed brow is so intense.
When he gets butterflies before a choir performance and irons his own clothes while I enjoy my coffee and ask him to sing to me.
All of it.
He had a choir performance tonight. We went for pizza after to celebrate, because teenaged boys want pizza. And I’m good with that. When we pulled in the driveway and he got out of the van, he was just there, in his shirt, in the light of the streetlamp and the wind blowing through his hair, and I begged him not to move just for a second so I could get my camera out! He let me take a bunch of photos in the driveway, and of course he was silly and laughing and wonderful as he is always so animated.
But this one…
It’s been a journey. And I’m loving the stage we’re in. But once in a while, I just wish we could go back, just for a moment, to the days of my cherub boy and his crocodile tears, knees tucked into my chest and hanging on to my shoulder. I can still feel that jagged breath in my ear, those quivery lips.
But then I see these eyes looking at me through the lamplight. And I realize that every single stage has it’s moments of perfect beauty, I just have to be open to receiving those eyes when they look right through me, no matter what age he is.