I made a bee line out the front door of the Children's Museum while completely unable to gain any sort of composure.
5 minutes earlier I had been standing in the center of the museum, the very center, the only place that virtually everyone can see you. Next to me was an employee in a purple polo shirt with a plastic name tag talking into a walkie talkie. "Lost child alert, lost child alert. Check your zone for a blonde girl in a purple tshirt and jeans. She is two and a half years old and answers to the name "Olivia".
10 minutes earlier than that I had been buckling my 17 month old into the double stroller and my eyes must have been focused on that buckle for a whole 30 seconds, which is sadly more than enough time for a 2.5 year old to disappear.
It is the most scared I have been in a really long time. My hear raced, I was frazzled, emotional, and after I stopped the flow of 4 letter words that first flooded my brain, I was silently praying my heart out.
On the walk to the car after we finally all left the museum together, Olivia asked me "Why are you crying, mommy?" I stopped the stroller, pulled her out and held her close. I told her I was so scared because when she ran away to play I couldn't see her. I told her it's like when she can't find her blankie and she is scared it is lost. I told her she MUST stay where mommy can see her. I told her I had to pray to Jesus to help me because I was scared. I really tried to say this all clearly and calmly through my cracking, fragile voice.
My sweet girl, so little, who barely knows her ABCs.
She lifted up my sunglasses on the top of my head. She said "Don't be scared mommy. Take a biiiiig breath" as she gently cupped my chin. "I love you, mommy. Don't cry. I want to make you happy". She continued to comfort me in gentle little whispers, and her empathy and tenderness were as deep as the ocean. Her tiny soul was so big and incredibly beautiful as she looked into my eyes intently. I felt her strength of kindness for the first time in my vulnerability, and that moment was such a gift. To feel her wipe away my tears with the same gentle strokes I have wiped hers away a hundred times. To have a small glimpse into the woman she is going to become...and what a beautiful sight it was. It was truly one of the most special moments we've shared.
As my heart rate slowed I became deeply thankful.
- My girl is safe. God was watching her vigilantly even when my eyes could not see her.
- My willful girl is beautiful. She is empathetic, strong, and emotionally connected (when she is not being a typical 2 year old).
- I felt no shame (even though you may think I should have).
Recently I have been learning to release the opinion of others. If you want to introduce some "You're a bad mom" voices into your head I think standing in the middle of a museum while the employees are buzzing "Lost child" all around you is a great way to start.
I am not exaggerating when I say I beat myself up for DAYS when I first became a mom and realized other moms had pillows for their babies on their diaper changing tables. "I don't have a pillow on my changing table, I am such a bad mom!" I thought. Now, after losing my child in a crowded, public place, and having plenty of people stare at me, I was able to push that "You're a bad mom" thought which used to be so instant and so strong out of my head almost instantly- to instead feel the grace and peace of God in that moment.
I'm not defending the fact that I lost her. All I can say is that in the midst of that horrible mess, even one I felt to blame for, I felt hope and peace and God's strength. In those things I felt confidence, and that confidence and peace of God just didn't leave any room in my heart for shame or judgement. It wasn't until after I calmed down that I realized how far I've come on my journey of freedom. Thank you, Jesus. I could not survive motherhood without you.
Even though I was overcome emotionally, I didn't actually care what the people who saw the employee hand me my child thought about me. I was just praying, praying, praying: Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God. Is it possible that on the day of one of my biggest, scariest mistakes as a mother God showed up so strongly in love and grace that I will actually always remember this day for who HE is instead of who I am not?
Girls, we are all going to make mistakes. Embrace the beauty that can come from the mess.
Do not get caught up in what the mess says about you, what others think of your mess, how horrible you are for being a mess...allow God to shine through the cracks of the broken, fearful, imperfect places. Let him shine beauty and kindness and invaluable memories and lessons in unexpected places. Accept that we will be weak and allow that to make space for Him to be strong. Pray without ceasing, and let HIS VOICE be the only one you allow to speak to you- especially when it feels like your world is shaking.