Noah and I were trekking through the Aldi parking lot on Sunday, trying to stay warm and avoid cars while we made our way into the store. Suddenly, something caught his eye,
"A button, Mommy! Nook!! Somebody lost their BUTTON!!"
We froze right there in the middle of the freezing parking lot to marvel at a tiny yellow button stuck in some slush.
I had a moment of recognition.
"Noah!" I squealed, perhaps a little too excitedly, "do you think that is CORDUROY'S button???" I looked at him with a raise of the eyebrow.
He looked at me, his eyes wide for a moment, then he raised his eyebrow right back.
"Silly Mommy, Bears don't live at Aldi." he scolded.
"Yeah, you're right." We laughed and made our way to the shopping carts.
Corduroy must have been on his mind ever since, because the other day he asked if I could read it to him. I squealed, again probably a little too excitedly, because Noah NEVER asks me to read to him. He's so busy, so wiggly, so loud, so funny, so loving, but not necessarily so. . .cuddly. Until today. We dug through the shelf to find the beloved red book and he snuggled up in my lap right there on the bedroom floor. I started to "read", although at this point reading is optional. Corduroy is pure memory.
"Corduroy is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store. Day after day, he waited with all the other animals and dolls for someone to come along and take him home. . ."
I drifted off into auto mode, the way moms and dads do when all of the inflections and the voices and the pauses and ways you turn the page come back as pure muscle memory. But by halfway through the story, when Corduroy had gone up the escalator and was exploring mattresses for his lost button, my eyes got misty. By the end of the book, I was choking back tears.
"I like you just the way you are," she said, "but you'll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened."
"You must be a friend," said Corduroy. "I've always wanted a friend."
"Me, too!" said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.
Corduroy was Daniel's book first. Reading to Daniel was my job when Paul and I were in divide-and-conquer mode at bedtime in our crazy days of two-in-cribs and two-in-diapers and two-under-two. The glider where I rocked him was right by the window, overlooking our tiny postage stamp-sized backyard with the big walnut tree and the old garage that bloomed around it with purple lilacs and lilies in the spring. I can still feel little Daniel in my arms, his blankie and the Corduroy book in my lap, rocking, rocking, rocking as I gazed out the window, no need to look at the pages anymore. We read our paperback copy until it fell apart and had to be replaced. Since then we've bought every other Corduroy book and enjoyed them all. Josh's favorite stuffed animal was a small keychain we call "little tiny Corduroy" and we even dressed Noah up as Corduroy for his first birthday.
Yeah, we did that. No shame in my Corduroy game. But in my heart, no matter who I am reading it to, Corduroy is always Daniel's story. And that curious little bear in the green overalls who doesn't even realize he is missing a button, enjoys the little things in life, and just wants a friend? He is totally my Sunny D.
So, the tears poured out.
I had a hard week with Daniel. And the hard week has very little to do with Daniel and a whole lot to do with his mom. I had lost my patience with Daniel enough times since last Thursday that we all started to feel it. I didn't lose it with any of my other kids. Just Daniel. Daniel who has never said a mean thing about anyone in his entire life, who has a heart of gold, who has never excluded anyone from anything, who has never even squashed a bug. Daniel who has never carried a grudge and is always, always the first to forgive. My sweet little Sunny D.
By Sunday, I was feeling like a horrible mother who couldn't get herself together.
Monday, I had to do some soul searching.
Why is it easier some days to be kind to strangers and acquaintances and friends than it is to be kind to my own family?
Why do I treat my kids like projects that I somehow need to complete by the age of eighteen?
Why are there times when I treat my kids as obstacles to my work instead of AS my work?
Why do my heart and my head not always come together and agree on what is important?
Lisa knew what was important. Corduroy was perfect just the way he was. Would he be more comfortable with his shoulder strap fastened? Sure. Would he like a pocket? Of course. But he didn't need any of those things to be loved by Lisa. Lisa gave him the biggest gift we can give and the one we all hope to receive, "I like you just the way you are."
I asked Daniel for his forgiveness on Monday, and he gave it freely because, well, he's Sunny D.
Being the Lisa to his Corduroy is a daily choice, but I'm going to keep making it. . . because everyone deserves to be loved like that.
And honestly, I could stand to be a little more like Corduroy and Daniel. If I can find the wonder in an escalator or a washing machine or a pocket? Well, then, joy is within my grasp every day.
So I'm praying for eyes to see my children as God sees them.
For the wisdom to put their behaviors in perspective.
For a heart that loves them as God loves them.
For the grace to accept them and celebrate them just the way they are.
To remember that above all, my child is my neighbor.
And we're all just walking each other home.