My eyes follow his every move. I wonder if he can feel my gaze on him as it travels over him. Does it warm his skin the way it warms my heart? Are my thoughts loud enough for him to hear because he just looked over at me and did that little nod he does when he wants me to know he knows I’m here…on the side.
There was a time when I spent every waking moment in the thick of it with him. We rose with the sun, often before it, and were inseparable through the dark of night. I held him through milestones shared with all who would stop and listen, even if seen only through my eyes. Gentle, stolen kisses when he slept, moments I should have slept with him but couldn’t take my eyes off him as every tired bone in my body chose that time to come alive with undying gratitude for him, for that moment.
I suppose all things must come to an end. I held him a little less, let go a bit more, knowing he needed to explore the world around him. Knowing as I watched from a distance, he was becoming who he was meant to be. Each of his victories brought a smile to my face as his eyes, seeking my praise, met mine. I learned to step back and love from the side.
I found myself watching him from a bench at the park as he learned to invite others in, creating a circle where once there were only two. Still…he glanced over his shoulder at me time and again not wanting to sever our connection yet stretch it just enough to let him be. I learned to love from the side as I waited for the moment when he ran back into my arms as a weary traveller happy to be home once more.
As I pace the sidelines, I am not alone. I capture memories through my lens of all those babies who stepped away from their parents to express an independence we encouraged, a self-confidence we instilled in them. Yet, we never stop loving even when we find ourselves behind the line recalling moments when they needed us on a different playing field with different challenges. Still…glimpses of those years when they yearned for our touch to soothe them surface as they inevitably make their way to the sidelines directly to us when they need a shoulder to cry on, a little encouragement, or someone to celebrate their small victory. Week after week, I witness love on the side as alongside me parents continually make the time to be present for those little ones who still depend on them. Parents who add coaching, practices, games, cheering, additional miles, and extra laundry to their already lengthy to do list.
We endure the heat and face the bitter cold together because something magical happens on the side. Each one of those children on the field, becomes our child. Together, we celebrate each of their successes and cringe at each of their setbacks. Our hearts collectively hurt when they rush to the sidelines in tears, eyes searching for the one they know in their hearts will bring them comfort. Whatever challenges we face to make it there for that game, that practice, that play, all become worth it when we get the slight nod that says, “I know you’re here.”
This post was written as part of this month’s #1000Speak topic – LOVE. Join others in sharing your take on love by linking up below.