Raising Char

Dear Char, this story is really about you. I pray we’ll always be close friends.

I had a flash back of Shep’s drowning a month or so ago at church. The sermon was about the royal official who sought out Jesus to save his dying son. Jesus’ first response is not exactly encouraging. So, the man presses further, desperate. “Jesus, come down before my child dies.” he pleaded. (John 4:46-50.) 

In his sermon, our pastor used the words “Jesus save my son” to describe the scene. I could feel it coming when he began the story but this was the instant the memories rushed back and the movie reel behind my eyes kicked on. 

Shep is laid out on the floor of my parents’ dining room, eyes half open, paramedics kneeling over his small, limp body. His skin is the wrong color. We stood on the edge of the room, watching and frozen. I want to be on the ground next to him but the logical part of my brain keeps me rooted to my spot, I know better than to interfere with their work. A hand, I think maybe a neighbor who’d heard the screams, is placed on my shoulder, I’m assuming she’s helping ensure I stay put as well. 

And that phrase, “Jesus, save my son” escapes my lips, without my consent. 

Over and over, I say the words.  No one else is talking except for the low murmur of medical jargon from one paramedic to another. But I can’t stop.  My words are quiet, but deliberate. “Jesus, save my son.” It was not my mind, but my soul crying out for mercy. My mouth is just relaying the message. 

Well. 

After three minutes of squirming in my seat in the church atrium, I surrendered. I shot Erron a look (he could see what was happening) then made a quick exit to the bathroom, Charlotte trailing a half step behind me. My shadow. I steered us to the nearest bathroom and made a beeline for the big stall at the end. Locked the door and put my hands over my face, no longer able to hold back the tears. Charlotte, momentarily stunned, moved to put her arms around me. “Mommy, are you feeling ok?” she asked, concerned that my crying was caused by the illness that had run though our family that week. “Yes, baby. I’m ok.” I took a breath, “That story reminded me of Shepherd’s accident and it hurts. Even though I know he’s fine, he’s great. But it still hurts sometimes.” 

Char solemnly nodded. 

Then she gently reminded me of the trick we had created together last spring during an unusual season of negative thoughts that plagued her daily. 

She brought her small fists to her forehead, drew out the thought and broke it in two, as if it were a twig. Then she opened her hands, releasing it into the air.  I silently copied her movements, moving my hands to my head and breaking my terrible memory in half. She rolled her eyes, I had obviously done it wrong, and when she giggled, I smiled. The moment was over.

But in that minute, hiding in the bathroom stall with Charlotte, I experienced what it was really like to have her as a friend. On the escape walk there, I’d knew I was going to have to explain my drama to Char once we got inside the bathroom and the tears started rolling. But I didn’t really need to, she already got it… and she empathized. Her presence in my moment of weakness was a sweet blessing. “I’m glad you were here Char.” I told her before we left the stall. “You made me feel better.” And I meant it; she was the perfect friend to have in that moment. 

I’m a girls’ girl but I’m not a natural girl mom. My instinct in frustrating situations is to deflect and throw sarcasm out like a shield, or a weapon, depending on the situation. This works all right with Shep, but it does not sit well with Char. In the last few months she’s called me on it and reveled some sharp edges I need to soften in order to love her well. Raising Char provides the friction I need to wear down my rough responses. She is relentless in her fight to get what she wants, be it more tech time or another playdate. She persists, until you want to loose your mind. But she is tenderhearted, (and young) and my reaction to her has to be measured, or else she’s crushed before I even know what happened. I fight a constant undercurrent of insecurity raising Charlotte. I’m worried I’ll ruin our relationship with my quick words and lack of sensitivity, but that day in the bathroom I had a moment of clarity. I can just let her in, and the older she gets, the more opportunities I’ll have to do it. As she grows I can grow too; Charlotte is worth it to examine my responses and see some of them for what they really are, defense mechanisms and insecurities. All my kids make me a better person, but Char makes me kinder. She draws out my vulnerability and reminds me how heavy words can feel. 

This last year I watched Char become a little momma to baby Shel. She tends to his needs as well as I do, it’s the most natural thing in the world for her to care for him. He lights up for her. The same persistence that makes me want to rip my hair out is the same grit that is still carrying Char through a tough school year where she has to work harder than most to learn how to read. Char will do 1000 round-offs for her coach without being asked; the girl just knows how to work hard. She is a close observer of right and wrong and considers it her duty to inform you if the scales of fairness have been tipped in any way. Almost seven, Charlotte still crawls into my bed at night, then wraps herself around me. We’ve bribed her and taken away her favorite things trying to get her to stop.  It doesn’t work. She comes no matter what. Perseverance, she has in spades.

Charlotte has always been my girl, and I don’t know how I got so lucky. I only pray I can love her back as well as she loves me. It’s like being loved by a firecracker. Intense, sparkly, overwhelming, and beautiful all at once.

Happy 7th birthday Char. You are one to watch. I love you more than I can say.

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