I jolted awake, finding myself staring into round eyes and chubby cheeks dimpled by a huge grin. I found a smile of my own slipping unbidden through my sleepy fog.
“What we gonna do t’day?” Micah landed on the bed with a bounce.
“Honey, you know I have to go to work.” I rubbed my eyes and felt the familiar stab of guilt. Oh, why did I have to leave him all day?
“After! What we do after?”
I sat up and groaned. “What do you want to do?”
He lit up. “Park!”
I tousled Micah’s hair and went to brush my teeth, feeling a rush of gratitude so strong I almost choked on the toothpaste. He was the only one who could get me out of bed, get me through the work day.
I spit out the foam and gave him a mischievous rabies grin. He laughed out loud, splattering his own toothpaste all over the mirror. I felt like my love could well up and splatter just as far. I glanced at the little guy. Was love enough? Would it take the place of so much lack?
I watched him rinse his mouth out and felt the guilt. He deserved better than this. He deserved a dad… and a mom who could stay home with him while he was still a toddler. A mom who wasn’t so wrapped in depression she could barely flip burgers.
I held his hand tightly as we walked to the car, and again as we entered the daycare. I didn’t want to let go. He was so little. So tiny to be left behind.
I cried as I left, and struggled not to cry throughout the day as I worked. My brain spun, cycling through grief and gratefulness in an agony that moved as slowly as the clock hands.
Finally I rushed to retrieve Micah. We stopped at the house for a snack and a ball, then headed down the cul-de-sac. The beach ball was bigger than he was, so I balanced the blue orb on my head to make him giggle.
“Mommy!” Micah pointed. “Look, the blue fam’ly.”
A family with a whole herd of milling kids came from the newer end of the neighborhood. It wasn’t hard to see why Micah had dubbed them such. Their house was a brilliant blue, and they were all wearing blue denim.
By the time we reached the park, the other family had already started a lively game of catch, punctuated by peels of laughter. They looked just right. Just like a real family should.
“Mommy.” Micah tugged on my sleeve. “They’re happy, Mommy.”
I felt a pang. Did their house really have no screaming, no yells of frustration, anger? Surely that couldn’t be possible. Yet… every time I’d met them, every time I’d seen them interact, I could feel something different.
“They’re happy at home, too.” It was as though the child could read my mind. “I seen ‘em. T’rough the winda. I seen ‘em smiling. Singing even.” He looked up at me, his eyes wide.
I didn’t scold him for spying. I only touched his head and wondered what it could be like to be rid of the guilt. To be content.
“Hey.” We turned and found a young blue-clad boy holding out a smaller ball. “Wanna play?”
Micah was in the middle of the melee in an instant, jostling with the dad, jumping for the ball.
The mom walked up and smiled, holding a baby wrapped in a blanket of the ever-present blue. “You live around the corner from us, don’t you? I’m Sarah.”
“Yes.” I found a smile somewhere, and pasted it on, suddenly feeling worn and frazzled. “I’m Robin.” I looked at her in curiosity. There was a stain on her shoulder, and her hair was a bit mussed, but she nearly radiated peace. “How do you do it? So many kids?” My words tumbled out, unbidden. “I’ve only got the one and I can barely make it through the day. I do everything wrong and my house is a mess, and…” I turned away, ashamed of my outburst.
But she touched my shoulder. “You’re doing good, Robin. You might not be able to give him everything, but you give him the important thing—yourself.”
I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing. “How do you stay so…”
“Come sit down.” Her smile reached all the way to her eyes. “I’ll tell you all about Him.”
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