I remember when Dax first learned how to sit up on his own — around 6 months old — I was so elated. “He will crawl soon!” I exclaimed proudly as I watched him poised upright and wobbling on my floor, a teetering heap of baby rolls. I fantasized about how fun it would be to observe him scurrying about the house, exploring new and foreign things — dust bunnies and misplaced laundry! — for the first time.
Dax learned to crawl about two months ago and I wish I could go back in time and slap me for not enjoying every second of stationary baby life. For every dust bunny and misplaced piece of laundry in my house, there are two electrical outlets and sharp edges of furniture. In recent weeks, Dax’s exploring has not so much yielded excitement as it has drama and pain in the way of his first bloody lip and, a couple days ago, his first black eye.
I tell you what — as a parent, nothing makes you feel worse than seeing your kid get hurt. Really and truly. Even things so minor as this really rip at the heartstrings. (Particularly if your kid getting hurt means pouring blood all over you in the middle of a crowded store. Let me just say that’s not the most fun you’ll have in a Naples Wal-Mart.)
After both the lip and the eye, I went through a really restrictive period with Dax in which I wouldn’t put him down unless he was in his crib or Pack n’ Play, our two prisons of safety. This made Dax mad, shrieking mad, because all he wants to do now is crawl from here to eternity. But I couldn’t bear to let him do that because that might mean he’d get hurt again.
The thing that sucks about this is that in order for him to learn and grow, he’s got to get hurt. I really hate that. I wish he could learn things and navigate life completely pain free. I wish I could protect him from ever hurting but to do that would be to hurt him in a different way.
I was really afraid to move to Naples because I knew it was going to hurt. I knew that leaving my friends and family behind was going to be torturous on my spirit. So, for the weeks leading up to the move I avoided talking about it or thinking about it, lest it bring about the sting of loneliness and reminiscence. I put myself in a mental Pack n’ Play, safely encased in a mesh box of avoidance.
This past Sunday, as I parked and wrangled Dax out of the car and started walking toward our new church, the feelings caught up with me. My heart started beating violently and my Pack n’ Play collapsed on itself, letting a wave of sadness and loneliness swallow me whole. I couldn’t hear the nursery workers greet me over the sound of my own heartbreak beating against my eardrums. They smiled at us ever so sweetly and chatted about how happy they were to see Dax and I grinned right back an empty grin and floated mindlessly into the sanctuary.
Sitting in a long, rigid pew, by myself, in a room built to hold over a thousand people whose names I don’t know, I felt so small. I felt so insignificant. I still could barely hear anything — just the woosh woosh woosh of blood in my ears — and a lump in my throat grew to choking proportions.
Without the safety of the Pack n’ Play, I was suddenly crawling across an expansive, slippery tile floor and had just lost my balance and face-planted. Just like Dax.
At the end of the service, the contemporary worship leader came up to Dan and me and asked if he and his wife could take us out to lunch.
“Oh, thanks, but Dax hasn’t napped all day so Lindsay really needs to get home–”
“YES! PLEASE! Take us!”
I interrupted Dan so quickly and desperately that he shot me a look of surprise.
“Please,” I begged, “I’ve been hit hard by a sack of lonelys today and going out to lunch with new friends is the perfect way to make them go away.”
And so, we went.
With chopsticks in my hand, asian noodles in my mouth, and a kind, loving, generous family surrounding me, I picked myself up off the floor, put some metaphorical ice on my throbbing face, and put my Pack n’ Play away. Today, I continue to roam around and learn and feel and hurt, but also heal.