From mid March...
The weather has been truly beautiful today. The temperature has been in the mid 70’s, the sun is shining, and there is a gentle breeze—I had to take Benjamin outside. I considered a simple walk around the neighborhood, but it just didn’t seem appealing today. I considered laying a blanket out on the front lawn and blowing bubbles, but I really wanted to be able to move around more. Then I considered Johnstone Park. It seemed to be the right fit for such a beautiful day. Nestled on the outskirts of downtown Bartlesville with the Caney River looping around it, Johnstone Park offers both beautiful trees and wide open spaces, a lovely walking trail, covered picnic areas and playground equipment. So, after our afternoon nursing session I packed up a small diaper bag, and we loaded up in the car.
As I had anticipated, the park was full of activity. The playground area was swarming with children, mostly from the Boys and Girls Club who are out of school for spring break. Vehicles were dotted everywhere. I pulled in next to a pick-up truck where two elderly men sat with the windows down, leisurely conversing. After getting Benjamin situated in his stroller, I headed for the walking trail. I was thankful that the path itself looked pretty empty; most of the activity was in the playground area. As we walked I breathed in the fresh air, enjoyed the surroundings, and took time to quietly pray and reflect.
During Benjamin’s first few days of life, our close family friend Myong went jogging at Johnstone Park daily, praying and crying out to God for Benjamin’s life. Months after he was born she revealed to us that after seeing our son for the first time, she held back her tears until she left us, wondering how in the world he could survive. As she jogged and prayed over those few days, God used simple things in nature such as four-leaf clovers and butterflies and birds to speak to her about His hand over Benjamin’s life. It was a sweet realization that I was now walking with my beautiful son on the same path where Myong had spent so much time praying for him to live.
At one point we stopped to sit at a bench. I had Benjamin face me in his stroller, and we played his favorite clapping game (discovered by Grandma Jan) where I clap my hands, and he places his hand in between mine. I gave him kisses, and he squealed and grabbed for my face before we resumed our walk. We soon came to the end of the path, but I didn’t feel ready to go home yet. I looked over to the playground area that was such a buzz of activity and wrestled with whether or not to take Benjamin to the toddler equipment. As he is not even crawling yet, I knew there wouldn’t be much we could do, but I thought he might at least be able to go down a slide with Mommy holding him.
The toddler gym was mostly empty except for one or two children. One little boy was giggling and running all over the gym as a woman (mother or grandmother I’m not sure) pretended to chase after him. She smiled at me and then watched as I held Benjamin and tried to familiarize him with some of the equipment. I then held him up to a slide and tried to help him slide down. Not knowing what to think of this new experience, Benjamin kept spreading both legs out, stopping himself along the edges. He gave me a quizzical look and didn’t seem too interested in what we were doing. After a few more failed attempts I decided that slides would have to wait.
By now the woman had moved over to the baby swings with her little guy. I didn’t want to seem like I was following her, but I thought that a swing might be something we could do. The other little boy was already swinging high and squealing with delight as I got Benjamin settled into his swing. Instead of swinging him high, I kept a hold of the chain handles and gently pushed him back and forth. I had to keep an eye on his mouth to make sure he wasn’t sucking on the metal handles. Benjamin seemed to be surprised by this new experience, but he enjoyed watching the other little boy swing and laugh. At one point I asked the other lady how old the boy was and she said he was three. She asked Benjamin’s age and I told her 21 months. I then commented “This is his first time to swing. He’s still trying to decide what he thinks of it.” I wrestled with feelings of self-consciousness, knowing my statement was probably surprising. A moment later I decided to actually let go of the swing handles and just gently push Benjamin. He seemed to do ok, until I glanced away for a moment at some girls who had just run up. In that split second he tried to launch himself to get to me. Thankfully, the swing seat was high enough around him that it held him in place, but images of him tumbling head first onto the ground still crowded into my mind. I decided that was enough swinging for the day and pulled him out.
In one last playground attempt, we headed for the “big kid” swings where I sat down with Benjamin on my lap and slowly rocked. We only lasted a few moments; the swing was uncomfortable and a group of girls were heading over to play, so I wanted to make room for them. I placed Benjamin back in his stroller and headed for the car. I felt a mixture of emotions. It was wonderful to have some time outside with my son, and I enjoy trying new things with him. However, it was difficult to be reminded of his present delays and the limitations they create. I so look forward to the day when Benjamin can hold my hand as we walk through the park. I look forward to watching him climb and slide and swing. I imagine the smiles and laughter that will accompany these future outings. I know they will come; it just won’t be within the time table I once envisioned. As I lifted Benjamin out of his stroller and got ready to place him in his car seat, he smiled and me and squealed. He was so content-so happy to be outside and just spend time with Mommy. I found myself saying, “Did you have a good time? That’s what’s important.” And it is.