A million moments of your face on mine. You reach for me. You run to me. You beg me to watch – you watch that I am watching. You smile for me. You wrap your arms around me – any place you can find – an ankle, a calf, a thigh, a waist, one day a shoulder.
You are looking: looking at me, looking for me, looking to me. You do this even when you don’t want to be. And I take pictures of you looking.
A million images of your face facing mine, camera to my eye, click.
And there are a million more – that I don’t always take with a camera – of you looking away. You can’t find them in that box in my closet that keeps the pictures I have from your baby days. Don’t bother with the iPhoto library or scrolling through my phone. They aren’t there.
These are the pictures I take with my mind. They click somewhere on the inside of me – notches on my heart.
Images that capture the very essence of what I am called to do as your parent: let you go.
On the first day of school – every year – guess what I’m going to do? Take a picture of you. Front porch. Front of the school. Backpacks on. Smile, big. Look at me. Don’t be silly. Be silly. Okay one without your siblings. Just you. Hold up your fingers – woo hoo! First grade, second grade, third grade…..you can stop with the fingers when you get to middle school – maybe.
In this picture, you will face me. You will be looking – to me. I will request it, but also, you will want to see me. It’s a safe way to start the school year – gazing up at the most familiar person you know before heading into something completely new.
And then the moment will be over and the image will be captured and uploaded and saved to the library, and it will take its place among every other picture of your face facing mine. At that point, you will look away. And I will take another picture. This is the one you don’t even know I’m taking. And it’s not just ONE, it’s many. It’s a constant clicking – the burst function – not on my phone, on my heart.
A thousand clicks per second as I watch you walk away.
You will find your class, see your friends, meet your teacher, and settle into a fresh desk with your name on it. You won’t watch to see if I am watching – you won’t have the focus for that. Instead, you will have big, darting eyes taking in everything around you.
Sweetie, I’m watching.
I may miss the cartwheel or new dance move or fast ball pitch because my phone rings or the water boils or to be honest, it’s just not compelling enough to hold my attention – but I don’t miss this. I don’t miss the moments you leave me. I CAN’T miss the moments I am asked to let you go – there just isn’t a way to ignore that bit of hurt…impossible to pass over that pang of pride.
So, you race past me and you head into a community and into an experience that will surprise and delight you – it will break and disappoint you – it will affirm and challenge you in every way. And I take this picture. Of your backs. This is part of it.
As much as you look to me, there is you facing the world.
All you need to do is keep walking – go and get your life – and don’t waste your energy looking for me. Because you know where I am – behind you.
Always and forever, a million moments and more – I got your back.