Last week my son had a day off school, so we trekked 25 miles to meet some of his school mates at Walter’s Pumpkin Patch.
This is the first fall in my son’s life we won’t be pumpkin and apple picking at America’s largest, family-owned, pick-your-own orchard, Eckert’s in Belleville, Illinois. We’re mourning the loss of Pumpkin Jamboree weekends and phenomenal fried chicken. But this year Eckert’s is 458.78 miles away.
Yes, I MapQuested it.
Walter’s isn’t the same as Eckert’s, but it’s still a blast. We were there on a weekday, so we had the place to ourselves including paddle boats, underground slides, an in-ground trampoline, corn maze, people-sized hamster wheel, giant seesaw, tree houses, and of course pumpkin picking.
Now my son has never struggled with separation anxiety. From the moment I dropped him off at nursery school, he’s not been one to look back. There are places to go, things to do, people to see. Mom? Mom who?
Walter’s was no different. He jumped head first into the activities, oblivious to my whereabouts. After lunch, he took off with his friends on their next adventure, leaving me in the dust.
I walked over to the country store to to chat up the owner. Turns out she knows the Eckert’s people. We discussed the finer points of Walter’s transformation into a destination farm.
As I strolled out of the store, I saw a small, lonely figure standing a block away from me on the driveway. Was that my child? Was he crying?
“What’s the matter?” I said as I got to him and held him. “Are you okay?”
“I couldn’t find you,” he said. “I thought you left me at the pumpkin patch!”
“Oh, no,” I said, “Mommy will never leave you.”
It was a promise I couldn’t keep, and I knew it the second the words came out.
“Mommy will never leave you at the pumpkin patch,” I said as if that clarification somehow helped.
Life is full of changes and loss. There will come a day when I will leave him—not by choice, never by choice. Death comes at the most inconvenient times.
Or he may leave me first. I pray not by death, but by growing up. His father and I are raising him with the goal that one day he’ll be independent of us. However, I can’t promise I won’t follow him if he moves away. Don’t you want me to be your daughter’s mother-in-law now?
We dried the tears and talked about how we both needed to tell each other where we were going to be, especially in strange, new places.
The school counselor’s words often haunt me, sloshing big buckets of guilt: “Moving is one of the top five most traumatic experiences for a child.”
Oh, Lord, what have we done.
“I miss Eckert’s,” said my son. So do I, baby. So do I.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
Brand new from an album due to release in January 2013, please listen to Need You Now by Plumb.
How do you deal with loss? How do you help your children deal with it?