Soon my baby began to stir from his car seat. I knew he was starving, so I grabbed his bottle and began feeding him. A car pulled up and a father and his two kids hopped out. I was sad that our solitude had been compromised, but excited the little girl looked about the same age as my 2-year-old.
The new kids and mine all began to play together. All I could hear was laughter; all I could see was light. Soon my 2-year-old was walking toward me. She seemed a little frazzled. She plunked down on the bench — almost on top of me — and grabbed onto my arm.
I looked down at her tiny hand. It was so small, but her grip on my arm was very tight. I moved my gaze up to her eyes. "Monkey, hey! Are you having fun? Isn't this a perfect day in the sun?" She looked out over the playground silently, then back up at me. "Mom, I don't have a dad anymore."
The lump in my throat found its usual spot. I looked out at the father who was now pushing his son on the swing. I squeezed her hand a few times, still contemplating exactly what to say. "Baby, I can't imagine how badly that hurts." A tear formed in her eye and began its journey down her cheek. "Mom, I miss him."
My heart was racing, and I wanted to make everything OK. I blurted out, "Kaleeya, I am sure he misses you more than you will ever know. He didn't want to leave YOU. I am sorry that it is so hard; it is not fair. I am here for you. I love you. I am right here watching you."
Her little lips reached up and kissed mine. "You are right here, Mommy, and you are watching me!"
She had nothing more to say about it. I thought she might talk about the little girl who had a dad there watching her; she didn't. She didn't even take another minute to wallow in her pain the way my heart wanted to. After my kiss, she was off playing again.
I didn't take my eyes off of her. I loved seeing her walk on her tiptoes, like she always had since the moment she took her first step. I loved seeing the little dimples in her cheeks every time she spoke. She had a natural beauty that captivated me, but the sincere sweetness inside of her was one in a million.
That night as I was tucking each child in their beds I asked them what their favorite part of the day was. When I got to Kaleeya's room, her answer was as tender as the sweet kiss she had given me at the park: "My favorite part of the day was watching you — watching me!"
She didn't care about the slides; she didn't talk about the ice cream cone that we bought on the way home. All she remembered was that I was watching.
I wish that every day I did everything right; I wish I had never yelled or lost my temper with my children. I hate that I have gotten frustrated when one has wet the bed, or spilled their cereal all over the floor. Maybe God sends us children, not only to bless us, but to test us and give us opportunities to show Him that we will watch, and we will care.
The park is not always going to be empty; the sun is not always going to shine; the children are not always going to laugh — but when those perfect moments come ... let us always remember to watch.
This article was originally published on The Moments We Stand. It has been republished here with permission.
Ashlee Birk is the author of The Moments We Stand, the blog and book series of her healing journey after the secret infidelity and murder of her husband in 2011. Graduate of Utah State. Mom of six. Contact themomentswestand.com www.themomentswestand