Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Big Rocks in Little Boots

On her first day of kindergarten, I stood in an empty afternoon parking lot and texted Cody, “No one is here???”

He responded seconds later, “Of course not. You’re 45 minutes early.” Sometimes his common sense drives me absolutely nuts.

I sat on the bench anyway, wondering if Caroline had been worried sick about me all day, as I had been about her. Turns out, she didn’t even know I was gone.

Months later and when my schedule allows, I love parking on a side street and picking her up from school. She typically talks so quickly and with such enthusiasm that I know all about her 8:20 AM – 2:40 PM day by the time we get back to the car.

But this day was different.

“Why didn’t you give me pants with pockets today?” Caroline asked me as I kissed her head and grabbed her little hand.

I looked down to see what she was wearing: leggings.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “I thought you liked stretchy pants?” I tried to justify my 6:00 AM wardrobe selection for her. Who doesn’t like stretchy pants?

She suddenly stopped on the sidewalk and held my hand tightly as she tried to keep her balance. One at a time, she pulled each cowgirl boot off and dumped them out.

“Well, I’m sure glad you came to get me ‘cause I found these for you today and I didn’t have pockets so I just put them in my boots.”

Three rocks fell out of her boots and onto the sidewalk. She slipped her cowboy boots back on. “Ah. That’s better.”

The child had walked with rocks in her boots all day in an effort to please me.

“Caroline. Honey, you did not have to save those for me.”

“But I’ve never seen any like them! I found them during recess.”

“Morning or afternoon?” I asked, not that it mattered.

“Morning. I didn’t find any after lunch.”

In five years of motherhood, I’ve been gifted approximately 400 rocks, most off our farm. Many get shoved in pockets and later removed from the washing machine, but there are a few I’ll keep forever: The one she brought to me when I was in the hospital with Cyrus as he battled RSV at 6-weeks-old, the one she gave me when I was at Riley with Cyrus for his appendectomy and critical infection (sure sounds like a sickly little boy, doesn’t he?), the one she found in the barn lot that she is absolutely positive is Jesus’s tooth, and of course, I’ll keep these rocks, too.

Caroline with the rock she brought me, 
sitting outside Reid hospital 
when infant brother Cyrus had RSV

Because these rocks awakened me to the lengths Caroline will go to please me. What an eye-opening set of rocks! What a tender heart (and tough feet) she has to find such an object and want to share it with me, no matter the cost.

I praised her for the rocks. I studied the rocks and held the rocks and even showed the rocks to Cyrus. I’m sure this will shock you, but he could not care less. “What ‘bout ‘em?” he asked, confused as to what the fuss was all about. Caroline stood with such pride for being the gifter of greatness.

These little rocks in tiny boots taught me a lesson that day. Our kids are watching. They’re watching how we react to little victories and favors. They’re watching how we visit with them during the unremarkable conversations in the barn or on the couch. They love to watch our eyes light up in the same way we love to watch theirs.

I was reminded of this advice from Catherine M. Wallace, Author: “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

And these rocks in a little Ball jar on top of my dresser, they may fit in a size 9 toddler boot, but they’re big.

Really big.