“Mommy, I’m going to snuggle with you for the rest of my life.”
Oh, precious boy. It is the eve of your fourth birthday, and these words speak so sweetly to my heart. These words that come unprompted, out of nowhere, and melt me each time.
I know that at almost four I am the center of your world. I am safety, comfort, and love. And you don’t hesitate to tell me. You freely declare, “Mama, I’m gonna love you forever,” through a mouthful of Cheerios in the morning, sitting at the kitchen table as I drink my coffee, causing me to pause while you go on eating with no idea of the explosion you just caused in my heart. But with these precious words and over-spilling joy, comes a small stab of sadness from the depths of me.
Sweet boy, one day you won’t want to crawl up into my lap and just sit. I know that my lap won’t always be big enough for you. One day, you’ll have little time to just snuggle up. I know the “I love you”s that spill out with such ease and exuberance will one day cease, at least momentarily. I know that there will come a stage when you will become “too cool” to let your mom know how much you love her. I know that those words, if said aloud, might one day be ridiculed, teased, and halted by your peers, who all secretly still love their own moms but wouldn’t dare to let the others know.
Little boy, I know that some day, you’ll grow beyond needing me. And I know, most of all, that one day I will be replaced. There’s a little girl out there, somewhere in the world, whose mother is tucking her in tonight. And I know that one day, she’ll have your heart. She’ll be your safety, comfort, and love, the recipient of those words “I’m gonna love you forever,” and you’ll cause her heart to explode in a whole new way she never even knew possible.
I pray for that little girl. I pray for her heart. I pray that the Lord readies her for you, and you for her. I pray that she’ll know your joy and exuberance as I know it now. Will you keep that air of innocence, that wonderment that engulfs you as it does today? I like to think you will, and that it will be one of the reasons she’ll love you so. She’ll understand how endearing it is. She’ll know the strong, confident, self-assured man I can see, even now, that you will be someday. This little girl will know your stride and the way you walk as a man, in the same way that I can close my eyes and see your four-year-old swagger because it’s an image burned into my mind. She’ll know the man that’s tough, just as he was as the little boy I know: the one who can shake off pain but can be sensitive when really hurt. She’ll know the you who’s the life of the party, because even as a four-year-old, you can’t stand to not be in the middle of it all with a huge smile on your face. That little girl will know the you I know, who is fiercely loyal, loving, giving, kind, and caring, if I’ve done my job right.
But me? The secrets of my heart will be the little boy whom she won’t know. I’ll always know that boy who lay in his bed with his mom at his side. I’ll know he held his mommy’s hand, whispered stories of wild tigers, dragons, and knights with swords sleighing all that’s evil. Together, they peered out of the sunlight in his room, their secret passage into the night sky, where the moon belonged to the two of them and they told Mr. Moon of their secrets and dreams. The stars twinkled down on them, just the two of them, since they were the only two in the world that existed in those moments. She won’t know the face that lights up on Christmas morning filled with the joy of Santa’s visit and thrill of coming down the stairs to see what surprises await. She won’t know the sound of his tiny feet as they patter into my room each morning to steal a few minutes before the sun awakes, nor the feeling of his little body tucking into mine as the morning light peeks through the window, his small hands clutching those that he trusts would stop anything from harming him. Perhaps he’ll tell that little girl one day that the moon belonged to him and his mom, but will she ever know what those moments meant to me? How they have burned into my soul? Perhaps one day if they have a son of their own, she might. She just might.
“Mommy, I’m never going to leave you. Never ever.”
For now, little boy, I’ll take it, knowing that “never ever” might, in reality, only be another few years, if I’m lucky. But I’ll take it all the same, soaking up every second, so that when you do move on from needing me, when you do grow beyond me, I can look up at the night sky, see our moon smiling down on me, and remember the time when I was your world.