I had to pry your fingers off, one by one, when I dropped you off today.
You clung to me with such tenacity, such determination, because some part of you told you that you couldn’t do this without me.
I gave you a hug and a kiss, handed you to your teacher, waved goodbye and told you I would be back in the afternoon to pick you up. I headed out the door, leaving an air of feigned confidence in my path.
All you saw was me walking away.
You saw me, the one who is supposed to protect you and guide you, leaving you behind.
Little did you know, little one, that I was there long after you thought I had left.
I saw you cry. I saw you kick and scream and tell your teacher this was not what you wanted. I saw you struggle to keep it together and protest that you wanted mama. You didn’t want any of this. You didn’t understand why I had abandoned you and left you alone.
I saw you, but you didn’t see me.
I stood in the hallway, right where the two corridors connect, in a corner where I could peek through a small gap that gave me a view of the playground. I stayed right where I could hear your voice, and could intermittently see you through the window.
I admit that I lingered there for an embarrassingly long time, lowering my eyes and half smiling with self-deprecation as other parents passed me by with knowing, empathetic looks. They knew. This is what we do. I didn’t leave until I knew you were engaged in an activity, until I knew you had settled down a little.
Even on the days when I have to leave straight away, you are on my mind, constantly. I call up your classroom and ask your teachers how you’re doing. Sometimes, it’s every couple of hours. Sometimes, I have to garner every last drop of willpower in my being into waiting for every half hour to check in.
Sometimes, I cry in the car after dropping you off, because my heart knows your struggle. Sometimes, driving away as quickly as possible is all I can do to keep myself from running right back in and wrapping you up in my arms and never, ever leaving your side again.
And on a day like today, when I felt the tears well up as I stared at the roof of the car and tried to exhale away the weight of the universe on my heart to try to stop it from shattering into a million pieces, I felt like He then wrapped me up in His arms and whispered to me:
“And all this time, you thought I had left you alone.”
Sweet little one, this is a lesson I want you to remember, because it is one even I often forget.
Sometimes, you will feel like He has walked away and left you behind.
You will look around for Him, searching and wondering why He has abandoned you.
You will struggle, and you will feel pain. How can you love someone and then just leave her to suffer? You will wonder why He isn’t here to protect you and guide you, like He always said He would.
You will cry and scream and feel angry. You might give up on Him and think, “You don’t even care. You just left me here and walked away. This is so difficult, so impossible, so unbelievably painful, and You walked away.”
And then, I hope, you will realize that He is still there. He was there the whole time, watching you through the glass. He was constantly checking in, always aware of the fact that this was difficult for you, but fully confident that you had the capacity to handle this.
He has full faith in you. Maybe you couldn’t see Him or feel His presence. Maybe you had no inkling that He was in any way invested in your pain.
But He was there. He is there.
He never left.
What you think is Him leaving you to suffer alone, is Him planting you in the soil of hardship so you can flourish.
What you think is an experience only designed to bring you pain and struggle, is often when you will experience the most growth and strength.
When I leave you, maybe your faith in me wavers, and you wonder if what you thought was your unshakeable trust in me was mistakenly placed. Maybe you wonder how, if I loved you, I could leave you in this alone.
But just like when it feels like He has left us on our own, I never really left, baby girl.
In fact, during times like these which I know can be so difficult for you, I think of you and pray for you and cry for you and hope for you with more strength and love than I ever have. I am more invested than ever in your struggle, because I know that through it, you will grow.
So next time I walk away, baby, think of Him.
Think of the fact that although you can’t see me, I am closer to you than you ever thought, and will never leave you behind.
And neither will He.
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