Elliott is COMPLETELY obsessed with balls, and so we were so excited to bring him to his very first Easter egg hunt that they held at the base. Eggs are just like balls, right? Only squished in the middle? Like a ball with a belt on…that’s what I told Elliott.
They let the “little” kids get a head start so the big kids wouldn’t run them over. Great idea, except that the head start was about 30 seconds, which is clearly problematic when toddlers “toddle” and big kids, well, SPRINT. So we found an open, low-traffic area with just one or two Easter eggs, figuring the big kids would go elsewhere. We found an easily-spottable Easter egg beneath a table and figured that would be a perfect way for Elliott to start.
We pointed out the magenta “ball with a belt” to Elliott as I explained to him that he could go get it and put it in his little easter basket! He walked over with me, smiling at the kids who were zipping by him as they hunted for Easter eggs themselves. We had almost reached the funny-shaped magenta “ball” when suddenly, out of nowhere, this little girl wiggled in around me and snatched the Easter egg Elliott was going for! I was SHOCKED. And APPALLED. How could she do that?! Doesn’t she know that this is Elliott’s very first Easter egg hunt, and that was the very first egg he’s ever hunted? And she stole it from him? Doesn’t she know that he’s barely 1 and he can’t understand why someone just swiped his treasure right out from under his nose?? Doesn’t she know that he’s going to be scarred for life because of this?!?!!!
No, she doesn’t, because she’s 6. And that’s not what 6 year olds think about.
And no, he’s not going to be scarred for the rest of his life. Because he didn’t even know that egg was “his.”
So, I quickly grabbed another egg, purple this time, and moved it right close to Elliott and blocked the path so no one could grab it from him. And he got it! Hunt successful!! Phew!
I grabbed another egg that had been hidden and placed it under the little table. Now Elliott had the hang of it, and he immediately started to go for the orange belted-ball in his sight. He quickly moved over to it, reached out to grab it, and–a little boy ran over to grab it before Elliott!! But this time, my mom-like reflexes were in super-heightened mode, so with a quick “hiya!” I knocked that other kid out of the race!
No, I didn’t. Because he’s 4. And that that would be horrible of me. Like, really horrible. I can see the headlines now: “Missionary mom sends 4 year old boy to the moon just to let her son play with a 5 cent Easter egg.” Yeah, that would be bad.
But I did very kindly and urgently tell him that that egg was not for him, it was for Elliott. So back off, kid!!
No, I didn’t say that last part. But I wanted to.
This is by far the hardest part about being a mom so far. I have never had the urge (okay, maybe once when I was in high school) to punch someone in the face. But there is something about hurting my little boy’s feelings or doing something that I deem potentially harmful to him, that completely takes away all of my ability to reason and think clearly. All I can see is my fist flying, and everything getting better after that.
But do you know what happened a few minutes later? Elliott’s friend Parker came over and shared all his eggs with Elliott. And my heart just melted at Parker’s kindness. Then, Hunter came along and do you know what Hunter did? Share all his eggs with Elliott. And again, my heart melted.
Seconds later, the sweetest little girl came over and guess what she did? Share her eggs with Elliott. Elliott was suddenly surrounded by children, all sharing their eggs with him.
I let out a big sigh as I could just see God’s face looking down on me, with that knowing yet gentle smile, and saying: “Susanne, did you really think you could take care of Elliott better than I could?”
So that brings us to the other night, when we were hanging around the base after to dinner. Elliott had spotted a gold mine–not one, but two, soccer balls. He was having a blast playing with one of them…throwing it to me, kicking it, carrying it around…all the ways he “plays” soccer. When all of a sudden, two bigger boys came up and wanted to play “with” him. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old to know how to play well with a 1 year old. Now don’t get me wrong, these two boys are so incredibly sweet…it’s just that they’re 4 and 2, and a soccer ball is involved.
And Elliott’s world of “playing soccer” suddenly completely changed. It went from a friendly fun game that he plays with his mom and dad while laughing and squealing with delight, to an ultra-intense, fierce, competitive sport with these two older boys who had absolutely no mercy on him. No handicap advantages here! It took everything in me to not scoop up Elliott, grab the other soccer ball, and take him into a room where we could be all by ourselves and he could play fun-, squealing-, laughing-soccer to his heart’s content.
But instead, I let go. And just watched.
Watched like a hawk, mind you. Don’t get me wrong, I protected my little buddy when absolutely necessary (like when the zealous 4-year-old wound up to kick the soccer ball as hard as he could while it happened to be inches from Elliott’s face). But mostly, I let go. Cringing on the inside the entire time, I let go. And I just let Elliott be. I watched him get bumped and knocked over. And then I watched him get back up again, even more determined. And you know what–I learned so much about my son that day. He never once cried, whined, or complained when the bigger boys snatched the ball from him and ran. When they stepped on him in their eagerness, when they jostled him so hard that he fell over. No, Elliott chased after them. With all of his might. I’ve never seen him so sweaty, so determined, so covered in red marks on his face and arms from being pushed around. I have never seen him run like that. He would literally run after the ball and then throw himself down on top of it, stand up, and run away with it again. He was determined to play hard with the big boys.
There was one time that the 4-year-old was waiting for the ball to be passed to him and he was blocking Elliott from getting to it. His arms were out and his feet were spread as he was guarded the territory. Elliott came from behind and I could see his brain ticking. He crawled over, started to go to the left of him, then to the right of him, and then he quickly darted between his legs!! Ha!! We all cheered and hoorayed at Elliott’s cleverness and determination…and you know what? He got the ball.
We got in the car to go home and I couldn’t hold my tears back one more second…they started to pour out of my eyes in rivers (darn hormones!). It was so hard to just stand there and watch him grow up. To watch him learn what it’s like to play with boys. To watch him get knocked down. But mostly, I cried because I was so proud of my son. I loved learning more about his character in those moments. I loved watching him rise to the challenge, and not shrink back. Because that’s who our Elliott Brian is: Brave, strong, and true…
I think the absolute, most difficult part of being a parent is letting go. If I had it my way, I would have Elliott in a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, a butt pad…I would pad all of our walls and sharp corners and heck, even our marble floors! I would create a land of perfectness, where he could never be harmed, where no one could steal his Easter Eggs. He would grow up in a bubble and never be exposed to germs and never have one mean thing said to him and…
And he would never come close to being the boy, the man, that God has designed him to be. In trying to save him from injustice, I would be creating the greatest injustice of all–not letting him learn, discover, fall… (yes, I’m crying after typing the word “fall”…darn hormones!)
Elliott becomes more “boy” and less “baby” every day…and I know he’s only going to keep growing. Ahhh, and with each new passage into boyhood, it’s like a new layer of my fear is ripped off like a huge band-aid trying to protect my heart. I know I’m one of those sappy, sensitive moms. Let’s be real, I’m one of those sappy, sensitive people, no matter what the context. 🙂 But sometimes my heart aches watching him learn, when it’s one of those things that hurts a bit to learn.
But I will–I resolve–to allow my son to grow and flourish as God has created him to run. I do not want to protect and hide him when there’s an opportunity for him to soar. The greatest truth I have ever learned about motherhood came from Mama Melisa, almost a year ago. She has one sentence that strikes me to the heart each time she has said it to me, and most recently it rocked me as she spoke about her sweet baby Stella, who had to stay for a little while in the hospital before she could come home. And she said to me, “But Sus, I just have to remember…she’s not mine. She’s the Lord’s. She always has been. And He’s got her.”
That statement profoundly impacts the way I mother every day. And there are new layers to that revelation and that conviction every day. I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get harder to “let go,” but it’s a lot easier than the alternative…
So soar, my sweet baby Elliott…soar. Allow the Lord to set wind to your sails with the passions that He births within you. Allow Him to develop you. Allow Him to shape you. And know that I won’t be far… I’ll be right here to rejoice over every victory with you, or to let you cry on my shoulder if you fall…but always, always–I’ll always be right here…