By Lisa Copen
“Here, Mom, hold my hand and I will help you,” my son says.
We have just left his Tae Kwon Do studio and we’re parked nearby in the disabled parking spot. When I stood up from the chair my knee went out. . . again. The eighteen years of rheumatoid arthritis have caused my knees to be filled with brittle pieces of bone that have broken off, calcium deposits, and calcified blood clots.
As we walked out the door, I held the door frame, trying to get out of the way of the swarm of sweating students. A piece of something in my knee is stuck in a bad place and I can barely put weight on my leg. My leg will not unbend all the way. I was stricken with intense pain but trying to not show it, as I didn’t want his friends to wonder what was wrong with his mom.
He gently grabs my hand. My instinct is to say, “No, honey, Mommy is fine.” In fact, walking while holding his little hand throws my balance off a bit.
But I can see the worry in his face, his desire to help, his quest to express his tenderheartedness.
He wants to know he is making a difference–for me. He may not pick up his toys as frequently as I would like and he throws his towel on the floor behind the bathroom door rather than hang it on the hook –to express his independence from household rules. But he needs to know he is needed.
He is vital.
He is validated.
He is valued.
“Thank you, hon,” I say, holding onto his hand. “You are the sweetest kid in the world.” I smile at him.
He balances his duffel bag of karate gear on one arm and holds my hand with the other. He is eight, and the bag of equipment weighs nearly as much as he does. But he has grown an inch in the last few moment, as he stands tall, confidently in charge of his mom’s comfort.
I waver a bit and instinctively hold squeeze his hand. He looks up and smiles. He feels my dependence on him. My reliance on his character as much as his compassion.
So when I step off the curb carefully I squeeze his hand even a little harder than I normally would. I am sending him a message: “You are needed. Your strength is appreciated. I am safer because you are walking beside me.”
He is walking that precarious line between “child” and “boy.” Some days he reaches for my hand because he has held it for years. It is a warm comfort that can soothe away life’s confusions.
But I don’t grab it anymore when I pick him up from school. If he grabs mine, however, I will joyfully hold his little palm with the fingers wrapped around mine. Before I know it his hand will envelop mine.
But I don’t want to ever embarrass him.
Who understands the social rights and wrongs for a third grader, the unspoken “cool factors” that change from one day to another?
He walks me up to the car and when I reach to open the door he says, “No, Mom! I’ll get it!” and he actually opens the door for me.
“Thanks, sweetie,” I say gently getting into the seat.
“Be careful, Mom. Move slow.” Wow. He waits patiently to make sure I am settled. I smile at him and blow him a silly kiss and then I get the look that says, “Mo-om,” (You know, the two-syllable version) “Don’t embarrass me by blowing kisses.”
I smile to myself as he goes around the car to get in.
Thank you, Lord, for such an amazing little boy. . . Please always give him this gift of compassion, the ability to be aware of the needs of those around him and desire to help them.
He gets in the car and buckles up around the booster seat. He looks out the window as I back out of the parking spot.
In the past I would have gone on and on about how much his actions meant to me as we drove home. But I know him better now.
He is a boy who requires few words and disregards your compliments as artificial if they are too wordy.
He knows Jesus.
He knows Jesus is pleased.
He knows I am grateful.
He knows he makes a difference.
Psalm 27:3 says, “Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?” (The Message)
Lord, help me remember to always treat my child as though he is a gift. Help me recall these moments when I see toys that didn’t get put away or dirty socks under the coffee table. Allow me to see what is really important.
All is well.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.
She is currently writing a book for Christian moms who live with chronic illness. If you are interested in sharing your stories, feedback and confessions for the book, visit her Facebook page at http://MomWithIllness.com .