It it “glazing” hot, as the Eldest has been known to declare. The Littlest keenly focuses his eyes on his big siblings. Those bigger ones know how to keep cool: they romp and run and dunk and splash in a cheap blow-up plastic baby pool. The shade shifts; I adjust the Littlest and I to keep us out of that strong sun. I declare now: this is how we will spend our summer.
It is the first time in days that I let my shoulders fall back in ease, release the breath I didn’t even know I was holding. This picture of summer, alive in front of me, is familiar with echos of my own childhood. I know how the blades of grass get stuck on wet feet. I know that taste of sunscreen as it migrates with sweat and hose water to my lips. I need this afternoon of innocence.
We were in our second car accident in a month last Wednesday. Both times were not my fault; both times I had all three kids with me. (Yes, we are all fine). Since last Wednesday, I’ve been wrestling with my words, choosing carefully how to talk about all of this with the Little Ones. The Eldest, with his tendencies towards worry, is afraid to get in the car again. He tells me, frankly “But Mommy, you said a few weeks ago that we weren’t going to have another accident for a while!” Of course I did. I thought it was a safe assumption: in his four and a half years of driving in the car with me, we have never come close to being in a car accident before. The Middlest tells me “Mama, I don’t like car accidents” with a quiver to her voice.
So we talk about it. The Eldest takes his job seriously, telling each new person in detail exactly what happened. His words are concrete, his hands full of action. With each telling, he gains strength over his worry: he begins to own this tale. But in the quiet moments, his fear is undone. I want to smooth his hair, hold his hand and tell him that there will be no more car accidents. I want to assure him that it will not rain and there will be no storms. I want to promise a life full of sunshine and playing in the pool. But that’s not life, is it? And if I’m honest with myself, I know that my little boy knows that already. He knows heartache. He knows sadness and worry and he knows that life can be hard, and scary. My best bet here is to sit in his worry with him. To hold his hand through the sad and scary and hard. To walk it out with him. And in that, to show him my footprints through the tough stuff, sometimes as a guide, but more than that to show how it’s possible to come out the other side. Addie Zimmerman says this:
“The world is infused with pain and with evils of all shapes and sizes, and they will encounter it, our children. It will get under their fingernails, on their toes. And in the end what I want most to do for my children is to teach them to walk well in a world that is sharp and hard and broken. I want them to love bigger, to love stronger, to be able to stay healthy when they encounter dirt of all kinds.” Safe for the Whole Family
This accident we had was just that: an accident. The man who rear-ended us has his own story; his own dirt and his own hurts. I will forgive him for not paying attention. I will forgive him for creating a mess of the car I was driving. And yes, I will forgive him, too, for the burden of worry he helped heap onto my Little Ones. I will forgive him for making my ten minute trip to Target feel painfully long and difficult because of the mind-game that we now play just to get in the car. I will love bigger and stronger, because I’m teaching my Little Ones to do it, too.
Though my adult self can get wrapped up in worry, it is often triggered by these small bodies carrying more than I feel that they should. As a child I was not a worrier. Maybe it was my sweet acceptance that the world was no bigger than my backyard, my problems no bigger than practicing hard to run faster than the neighborhood kids and earn those bragging rights. One thing I know is that God can use these soft hearts that my Little Ones have: He can break their hearts for the things that break His. He can use their hearts to move their hands, their feet in loving this broken world. And this worry that they carry can be a window for them to see God: to see how He walks with them, to see how He answers prayer, making the sad things come untrue. To allow them to know His faithfulness.
I want for my Little Ones to remember running hard in the backyard, hair matted down with sweat around their foreheads. I want them to remember the force of their strong round bodies jumping and landing in five inches of water. But it is just as likely that they will capture the scary moments, too. I want to honor it all.
We gather up our bags, and our courage, and hustle to the door. I hoist long legs into Daddy’s truck, click car seats and buckles into place. Before I turn up a little Johnny Cash to ease the drive (the Eldest’s request), his brave voice beckons from the back seat: “Mama, can you pray?” And so I do. And we pause a little longer at our stop signs, look one extra time before making a turn. But we together we sing loudly, and come home to put on our bathing suits again.