My 9 year old son told me last night that he didn’t want to get older.
I was surprised by his admission. We were stretched out on my bed, propped up with pillows against the headboard, my son snuggled up on my left side having just finished another chapter in the book we are reading together. Reading to him looks nothing like the idyllic picture that might come to your mind of father and son sitting close in a big chair, cocooned by lamp light, the young boy enraptured by the story and his fathers voice. No. Our storytime looks like this:
Dad opens the book and calls to his son in the other room, “Storytime!”
“Ok, be right there!”
Five days later. Loudly. “Are you coming?”
“Coming!” The sound of running feet. A young boy enters, crackling with energy, his hands full of toys.
“Climb up here next to me and let’s review where we are in the story.”
“Oh!” The crackling energy holds up a finger. “I forgot my blanket!”
At my nod, he bolts from the room. I wonder if I have time to get a drink.
A bright flash and crack fills the room and somehow he has appeared on my bed. Toys scatter in terror. I am used to this display, so I bravely remain seated against my fortress of pillows.
“Are you ready?”
He nods vigorously, hands reaching out to recapture fleeing toys.
As I read, he is constantly moving, playing with figurines and random-looking objects which hold meanings known only to him. I pause occasionally looking up from the page to ask him what he’s doing under the bed.
“Are you listening?”, checking to make sure he’s still with me.
”I dropped something through the crack, but I found it.”
To a casual observer it looks like I am reading out loud to myself as my son plays in his own world (sort of) quietly to himself. Look longer, and you will start to notice perpetual motion pause for a heartbeat as the story reaches a point of suspense, eyes wide and face frozen with an eagerness to know how things will turn out. Other times he interrupts the narrative to ask an insightful question or to insert a random comment, always returning again to his toys. It used to bother me. Now not as much. It is who he is, and I love who he is.
Afterwards we snuggle. It’s always like that. The book closes, the toys are forgotten, and we sit against pillows as he wraps skinny arms around my chest and lays his mop of hair against me. We talk about the book and then other things. Today we talk about his 10th birthday coming up in a week. He is excited about the gifts, but then he surprises me with:
“I don’t want to get older.” He snuggles closer.
I don’t know how to respond. I always wanted to be older, and I love being older.
“Why don’t you?”, I finally ask.
“I am afraid. When I’m young I get to do things, but if I’m a teenager maybe I won’t anymore.”
“I get to snuggle mom now, but I’m afraid when I’m older I won’t be able to anymore.”
My heart sighs. I hold him close. I tell him not to be afraid. Things will change, but when you no longer have mom to snuggle, God will give you someone else. “When I got older God gave me you to snuggle.” He nods and smiles. We pray and then I kiss my son, sending him to brush his teeth and then to bed. The activity helps me avoid my own feelings of how much I’m going to miss this, too. But now alone in the quiet of my own thoughts, I wonder.
How often have I held tightly to what I cannot keep, fearing the unknowable future? How often has my imagination failed to show me a good future in the light of what I know today? Why am I thankful for the gifts my Father has given me today yet find it difficult to believe He has good gifts planned for me tomorrow? Why do I live like this life is all there is instead of living as part of an eternal future? A real future. A better future.
Thank God I am never too old to need His faithful, loving arms holding me close. In that place, worry and fear fade away.
In the words of Ira Stanphill,
I don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand