Often times my boys find me looking at them, or reaching out to put my hand on their face, or rub their back….and they ask me why I’m doing it. Many times I answer them with ‘just because’ and they accept this simple reply as a sufficient response to their question. Little do they know the answer is anything but simple.
I thought perhaps it was time to set the record straight, and perhaps sometime in the future if they find themselves again wondering, they can satisfy their curiosity with this blog post. Perhaps it will mean more to them and explain things to them they are now too young to really comprehend or appreciate.
I look at you because I wish to memorize every expression you have….every nuance and contour of your faces. The sparkling of your eyes, the smiles that play across your mouths. Sometimes I sit next to you both and wonder if you feel happy, if you feel safe….if you feel loved. I mull over past encounters and conversations in my mind and wonder how they impacted you, and what you will carry with you from that moment into the future…into your adult lives….and what you will recall when you think back upon your childhood as I do my own. I wonder if you are experiencing something now that your young mind cannot articulate, but that having me next to you, watching you, paying attention to you, at just the right moment will reassure you that you are valued…that you are special….that you are, without hesitation, loved absolutely and completely.
I touch your face to be in contact with the innocence and the blithe delight you express in simple joys and pleasures that come your way. To perhaps be a participant, rather than just a witness, in what it feels like to experience great joy merely in rolling a toy car back and forth across the floor, or cuddling with your favorite stuffed animal, or believing you just outran time and the wind and nearly lifted off the ground and soared into the sky as you charged across the lawn….to be able to feel something so innocent and so unsullied….to reach out and caress the pure and flawless nature of your loving….without conditions and without agenda. In a way I suppose I want to feel that for myself again, rather than the adult experiences of being self-conscious, of money worries, self-doubt, the disadvantages of aging and watching people you love pass on before you and know you must live your life missing them each and every day….feeling times of regret and frustration and helplessness, and the sobering reality that no matter how much we might wish to fly away from it all sometimes, just for a few hours or a day, we are grounded here on the earth, our feet firmly planted to soil, and the blue sky above is merely a vast playground and wonderland that belongs to the birds and the clouds and the air.
I rub your back or your arms or your belly because I know it soothed you in younger years and know that one day nothing I say or do, no touch or persuasion will ease some hurt you have experienced and you will be left to your own devices to find peace and comfort in some way. I know that one day you will no longer be assuaged simply by the sound of my voice or by simple words of reassurance, and I wish to prolong that for you. I would stay by your sides always if I thought that whatever ills impacted your life I could take them away for you, even if I succeed in teaching you how to heal from life’s wounds yourself, just to give you an alternative for times when you misplace your courage and strength and simply wish to fall into the arms of someone who will shelter you from the crash of the thunder and the bursts of lightening in the sky and tell you ‘it’s okay….I’ve got you….’ and you won’t feel insecure and vulnerable from taking comfort there.
I hug you and hold you because the compact enclosure of my arms affords you a feeling of safety against the rest of the world…against the vast and capacious landscape of doubt and fear and disappointment that awaits you, along with happiness, success, and delight; when you venture forth as an adult. One day I may not have the strength or the mobility to put my arms around you as I succumb to the unforgiving and profane desecration of time upon my body. One day you’ll see me struggling to walk from one side of a room to the other and perhaps feel sadness that your source of strength and safety as a child, that stalwart person who fought back all your dragons and boogeymen, and looked in every closet and under every bad, no matter how black and absolute the surrounding night was, has become nearly incapable of once ‘routine’ deeds and accomplishments. Eventually you’ll have only the memory of me to guide you through life, and the knowledge that I loved you until my very last breath, and I hope it will be sufficient to carry you through the rest of your life, and that you will pass that on to those you in turn will leave behind you. You may go beyond the reach of my arms, but you’ll never go beyond the reach of my heart and my love for you.
Right now you are so very young. Right now the words that I have written here would likely rise above your understanding and your comprehension. You value a new race car more than you value unconditional love. You prize your trading cards more than you do the ability to tell me anything without judgment or fear of being abandoned by me. You race off to turn on your video games rather than linger in my embrace an instant longer than you must.
And that’s okay. When I was a child, like you are now, I did the same thing. I suffered through the peaks and pratfalls of childhood not truly recognizing the love that I had available to me, and thought of nothing but running away from it all. And then, as I grew, I couldn’t wait to make my own rules and eat ice cream for breakfast and watch t.v. until the wee hours of the new morning Eventually I made my way out into the world and did all these things and so much more, and realized that at times all I wanted was to run back to my bed and throw the covers over my head and pretend there was nothing beyond them until someone put their arms around me and said, ‘It’s okay….I’ve got you.’ There are those who I know would do that for me. But based upon either their expectations afterward or my own struggle and discomfort with the idea of making myself ‘vulnerable’ to others….it usually always comes with a price.
There are a million or more reasons why I look at you as often as I do…why I reach out and touch you or wrap my arm around you or stare into your eyes when you don’t know I’m looking at you. There are volumes I could write on what I see and hear and feel, and so many long, passionate speeches I could give you about the joys of being your parent and loving you and watching you grow and learn and having you here day after day…despite the challenging and frustrating times….despite the noise and the mess and the exhaustion….the remuneration of parenting you far outweighs the expense.
When you ask me why I do these things, I could sit you down and speak for hours on the multitude of reasons why I hold you…why I look at you….why I love you. Hopefully, in the time I have left in your lives, I will have that opportunity and it will be a meaningful and lasting conversation that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, long after I’ve departed it, and you’ll look back on these questions and know in your heart, without question, what the answers are.
For now….I’ll say ‘Just because.’