When Hope Begets Tears: The Task of Letting Go Just a Little

by Sarah Marie Mays

In a little less than two weeks, I will send my son into a new world. A world filled with hundreds of children and dozens of adult perceptions of him I cannot control. I have been dreading and hoping for this day for years.

My son is six and he is starting kindergarten. In some ways, this is the first step. In many ways, this is one more step in a journey that began with his first therapy session when he was six months old.

Next week he will graduate from Speech Therapy. It seems like so long ago now when Michelle entered our home. My son was two at the time. He didn’t even have a handful of usable or meaningful words then.

Last week he came in my room with an empty grocery bag and stood in front of my oscillating fan.

“What are you doing, buddy?” I asked.

“Testing out my hypothesis.”

He smiled at me and held the bag higher.

“Oh. And what’s your hypothesis?”

“That the fan will blow the bag from my hand.”

As he said it, the fan spun around and filled the bag with air, and just as he predicted, lifted it from his hands and sent it billowing across the bedroom.

He turned and looked at me, those big blue eyes filled with childish joy.

“Can I snuggle?”

Now, if you don’t know what snuggling is, you need to try it. Grab your kiddos up and wrap your arms around them. Tousle their hair. Whisper your hopes and love for them into their ears. Just spend time with them.

I patted the spot beside me on the bed. “Of course.”

I watch as he tackles climbing up onto the bed. He’s short, but he can do it. My mind scans back to the three years of intensive physical and occupational therapy it took him to learn to sit, crawl, stand, walk, and climb stairs. His shins still bear the bruises of his stair climbing. Short legs and being slightly off balance account for most of them.

Up on the bed now, my son insists he needs my arm under his head, and my other arm wrapped around him. I oblige, and we snuggle into the softness. I wonder if he is tired and will fall asleep. He watches the fan, giggling as it blows the sandy-colored hair back from his face.

“You’re the first one I loved,” he says.

His emotional understanding of the world expands as he matches pictures of faces with words in therapy. Some days he still gets confused about how he feels. He still struggles with expressing pain, frustration, and sadness in appropriate ways. Love, happiness, excitement come easier for him.

There have been so many milestones along this journey. I can draw a string from the milestone to the therapist. The first time he let me hold his hand he was two years old. We were practicing walking down the hill in our front yard. I extended my hand and waited, and for the first time his pudgy little hand didn’t recoil. I probably smiled for a week.

His first steps were during a therapy session at a children’s play place. He walked to his therapist, Bri. That was an unbelievable morning. He even let her put his hands in finger paint and blow bubbles at him. What’s more, he enjoyed it. Those are some of my favorite pictures in his scrapbook.

All along our journey we have had helpers—Bri, Pam, Casey, Karen, Michelle, Renee—who have believed in my son, who have embraced both his challenges and his successes, who have seen in him the fire and drive that said trying was worth every minute.

And now we are here, on the threshold of a new world. A world that he is ready for—a world that he is excited for. And a world that doesn’t know that he was two before he walked, that he didn’t know I was “mama” until he was almost three years old, or that he still hasn’t mastered riding a bike without training wheels.

But we are here, at this door, and we have to walk through it—and maybe along with all the learning he will do, he will do some teaching, too.

Author: Sarah Marie Mays • Date: 8/20/2018

About the Author

Sarah Marie Mays holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her kids call her Mama and her husband calls her Beautiful. She and her family reside in coastal North Carolina. She occasionally steps away from her writing desk to take pictures of the water and gnarled trees.

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