Chasing Down What Was Lost

It seems like just yesterday I was cringing when a stranger would walk up to my shopping cart reaching in to stroke my little one’s head or offer their finger for my baby to hold. I’d become a pro at anticipating their advances and could position myself just in time to block their grimey paws from getting too close. Nine years and 3 kids later, I’m standing in the cereal aisle when a man hears my toddler’s babbling and makes eye contact with her.  I saw the smile grow on his face and his eyes lit up.  I know  that look. It’s the same look I get when I see a new mom holding a little balled up newborn on her chest.  I’m transported back in time – that feeling of soft, peach fuzz hair against my cheek, that sweet newborn head smell, the warmth of that cozy little bundle of perfection in my arms. I’d give anything to have that feeling again, even if only for a moment.  My toddler gave the man a big smile and held up her smooshed cookie as he walked toward my shopping cart.  This time though, I stepped aside and let him approach. “What you got there? A cookie?” he asked.  “I love your pretty dress,” he said as he pointed to the princess on her chest and asked, “is that Cinderella?” He told me he had 2 daughters, one who was about to get married.  In that brief moment, my baby girl had transported him back to a time when his girls were just little babbling babies with sticky hands and princess dresses.

And that’s when I realized, or rather when I accepted, that I am going to be that crazy lady in the grocery store chasing down people’s babies to talk to.  Chasing down something I’ve lost and long for terribly.  As my infants turn into toddlers, and toddlers turn into pre-schoolers there are parents out there with teenagers turning into adults and daughters turning into wives and mothers.  I have lost a lot as a parent, up to and including, my sanity, my muscle tone and my privacy.  The one thing that can never be replaced though is ‘today’.

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A Letter To A Dog, by my 4th Grader

Today I cried, twice.

But, these weren’t my usual  tears of utter exhaustion, frustration or disappointment in my parenting.

I had hit that afternoon wall at the corner of I’m-Over-It and Is-It-Bedtime-Yet? Baby was in the highchair watching Dora, 4 year-old was playing video games and 9 year-old was drawing,  so I  was checked out.  As I scrolled through my Facebook news feed I came across a post from an animal rescue group I follow.  There was a picture of a completely emaciated Mastiff and his sad eyes touched my heart.  Among many needs, what jumped out at me was that he would need heart worm treatment.  A little background – before I had kids I was very involved in animal rescue and took in two gorgeous,  6-year-old Weimeraners. Their owner had bred them, made money off the puppies and apparently didn’t find it important to put a single cent toward heart worm prevention.  I poured every ounce of myself into their recovery.  It was emotionally draining and expensive.  This was before the days of social media so the only fundraising I thought to do back then was yard sales with proceeds going toward their vet bills. Long story short, they lived to be 11 years old, they were my special gentle giants and stories of dogs suffering from heart worms are very personal to me.

I clicked on the donate link and must have sighed or something because my 9 year-old daughter asked what was wrong.  I showed her the picture of this mastiff, Winston.  I read his story out loud and saw the sadness hit her eyes.  “I want to donate my allowance to him,” she said. She handed me all of the stars from her chore chart and told me to give the money to Winston.  This, from the kid who earlier in the day was asking when I’d take her to Target to spend her money before it burned a hole in her pocket. On payday she always NEEDS to get more play makeup or the 37th ‘different’ mechanical pencil. But today, she had another plan for her money.

photo (2)

Ok, so this isn’t when I cried.

Later in the day there was an update on Winston, he was in a foster home now and even wagging his tail. We were so happy to hear the news.  She started to write him a letter.  Yes, she wrote a letter to a dog – this is what it said:

Dear Winston,
When my mom told me your story I felt heart-touched. I thought you needed that money more than I do.  You worked so much harder than I did.  You worked by surviving.  I have fostered a dog.  We adopted him.  Right now we’re fostering another dog and trying to adopt her.  Also, I hope someone adopts you soon.  I hate to hear that a dog like you, so sweet, nice and kind is in such a bad place like that and to be starved! To hear that, made me want to help you.  Here are some things about me. I’m 9, my name is Bella and I LOVE DOGS. I have a question for you, how old are you?
Love,
Bella

Insert tears here.

I question my parenting on a daily hourly basis. A majority of what I write is focused on the chaotic and disgusting aspects of our family life.  This afternoon though, I finally got some of the pay off I’ve been needing.  I was validated.  I was rewarded.  I was proud.

I can’t take full credit though.  Her father and I are divorced and she spends plenty of time with each of us. I like to believe that it’s our combined influences and ability to co-parent that are helping her grow into this compassionate and thoughtful person.  She spends a lot of time with my mom (AKA her favorite person in the world).  She has a great relationship with my husband, her stepfather.  And she has full faith in God.

Later that evening I heard her reading her letter to her step dad. I cried again.

 

Winston, photo from A Way for a Stray Facebook Page

Winston, photo from A Way for a Stray Facebook Page

 

To read some of Winston’s Story from the rescue group A Way For A Stray, go here. To learn about the group helping heart worm positive dogs, including Winston, or to donate visit Rooster to the Rescue.