Every single morning on the way to day care and before I leave my sons there, I have the same conversation.
“Mom, are you gonna pick us up?”
“Of course, sweet pea, I always pick you up!”
“Mom, are you coming back?”
“Yeah buddy! I always come back.”
Then I squeeze their bodies, kiss their faces and walk away.
For the last several months, I’ve had this morbid, terrifying thought.
What if one day something happens to me, and I don’t make it to pick them up? What if one day I don’t come back?
No matter where I’m going, when I leave my boys—whether for five minutes or the whole day—I kiss them goodbye and tell them I’ll be right back or I’ll see them later. When they ask me if I’m coming back, I say, “I will always come back.”
I pray every day that’s always the case. But the reality is, we just never know and there is a very real possibility that someday, I won’t come back. This truth crushes me as a mom, and it rattles me to my core as a single mom. I am blessed with a wonderful family who, if anything ever happened to me, would step in for my sons, and I know they’d be taken care of, loved and cherished forever.
But that’s not really the point is it?
When my sons ask me if I’m coming back, the point isn’t, “Will someone come pick us up?” or even “Will someone who loves us come for us?” The point is will I, their mom, be there to pick them up everyday? Will I always be there when they need me? Can they rely on my presence, even in my absence? That’s ultimately the answer they’re searching for when they ask me those questions.
It filters through the now and seeps into the rest of their lives. That innate sense inside of a child to always have their parent around. To know without a doubt that their mom will be there when they need her and that she will always come back, no matter what.
The truth is I won’t always be around. There will come a day that I will take my last breath, and I won’t “come back.” I pray fervently that day is 90 years from now.
I don’t want to miss a second of my boys’ lives. I want to be there for every first and every last. I want to see them fall in love, get married and become fathers. I want to be at every sports game and every special event. I never want there to be a day that they search for my face and don’t find it.
My boys are young, and on some level, these daily questions simply come out of habit and routine. A place of needing some consistency and reassurance. Although there has never been a day that I’m not the one to drop them off and pick them up from day care, their questions, I believe, also come from a place of insecurity. Although they are only 3 and almost 2, they are aware that they have another parent who isn’t around much. A parent who rarely comes back. A parent they see sometimes but are never quite sure when they’ll see again.
As a result, I believe they have a heightened sense of concern about my return each day; although they’ve never had a reason to doubt it, they still need that guarantee. I’m happy to give it and honored to be the one who comes back every day. But I also can’t help but think about the possibility of the day I might not, even if that day is when they’re 70 years old.
As a mom, one of my greatest fears is leaving this earth too soon and leaving my sons motherless before any of us are ready. Are any of us ever ready for that day? I have that same fear as a daughter. Even as a 30-year-old woman and mother of three, I fear the day that my own mother “doesn’t come back.” I need her just as much now as I did when I was a child.
My sons will always need me. Whether it’s to pick them up from day care and tie their shoes before school or to pick them up from the return of a business trip and tie their ties before their weddings. A child always needs their mother to “come back.” And a mother always needs to be there, even if it’s not physically. I pray I get that chance every day, forever. Since forever isn’t realistic, I pray it’s as long as possible.
Even when the day comes that I’m not able to come back for my boys, I pray they always carry me in their spirits and that not a day goes by they don’t know I did all I could to be there always. That they never doubt my love for them and my desire to “pick them up.” That they know deep in the core of their souls that their mama was their biggest fan and, if need be, would crawl across the world to get back to them. That with every breath they take, they know I’m there, even when I’m gone.
As long as it’s up to me, I will always come back.