Little Gym class. Logan was sitting between my outstretched legs on the "big red mat" at the end of class. We were waiting for our finale song where we clap hands and slap our feet on the mat while waving good by to our friends around the circle. As we waited, an adorable little boy we met before class started while playing with toys in the lobby stood in front of us just staring at me.
He stood staring at me and soon I said, "Hi, Sweetie." He kept standing and staring. "Do you want to sit with us?" I heard his mother to my right say to the mother between us, "I am invisible right now." I patted the mat to the right of my left leg, and then invited him to sit on my leg while patting it. This adorable little (I'm guessing) nineteen-month-old boy toddled over and sat on my leg for the finale song. I bounced him up and down as we sang and clapped to end our session. Then I encouraged both boys to get up and go get stamps. Having the teacher put a festive little (and washable) stamp mark with some creature or character on feet, hands and nose before leaving the gym is an important ritual. Logan got up and went over to get his stamp.
But, the little boy stood in front of me again. Then, he leaned in and lay against my chest. I said, "Aw!" and hugged him tenderly. Then I let him back up, only to have him lay against me again with his head to the side below my neck. I was wearing a v-neck shirt, so his head was against my skin. I hugged him again, and this went on for a couple more times. I was so moved by his loving behavior towards me. His young mother was in awe. "His real grandmother lives far away. I'm so sorry!"
"Don't be sorry," I said to her, "I'm loving this! What's his name?" I asked her as I stared into his sweet little face. "John James", she told me. "Hi, John James," I said to his loving face staring back at me, "thank you so much for the hugs. I have to get up now." So, I encouraged his mother to take him while I got up off the mat. I looked towards the exit door, and saw Logan patiently watching us. Then John James hung away from his mother with arms outstretched towards me, and I said, "Aw!" and took him in my arms once more for a big hug and I kissed his cheek and the top of his head. I looked at his mother, who was dumbfounded and kept saying, "I've never seen him act this way towards anyone!" I expressed my gratitude to her and to John James for the hugs, but told her I had to go get my grandson. I said goodbye and took Logan out.
I have not been able to forget this event. I have recently been feeling vulnerable and a little unloved by my greater family. I have been missing them, and when I suggested a way to get us all together for my seventieth birthday next year, I got a luke-warm response. So, I decided not to do it. I have also been feeling un-valued and a little lonely. Other than a couple hours at Christmas at a local neighborhood restaurant, I haven't seen much of my family at all. I haven't seen one sibling and the majority of my nieces and nephews for a year or more! I live over an hour from them, and proximity really does make all the difference. This proximity fact was affirmed once again during our recent visit with Larry's family in South Carolina. We then spent Christmas with my daughter-in-law's family, who all show up and love being together. All the generations attend. My family doesn't do that anymore, and I so miss it.
With our parents long gone, the family moves farther and farther apart. In-fighting has caused riffs between some siblings, and there's nothing I can do about any of it. I have been given the title of Matriarch, and I have never known what to do with the title. A part of me feels like it means I am responsible for keeping our family together. But, I know this is not possible or really true. I feel a little helpless and sad, but I resign myself to accept this reality. I have never been good about the word acceptance.
But yesterday morning, when John James wanted my love, I automatically gave it. I believe there was a lesson for me in this sweet moment. He was telling me that I am loved. I am valuable. My love is desired and appreciated. I am worthy. I am loved. I know my wonderful husband loves me, but somehow, love from siblings is just different. We all need to feel loved and worthy. We need to give these important values and feelings to our Selves as much, and even more, than we desire them from others.
Thank you, John James, for your love, and thank you for the lesson you taught me yesterday. I hope we see you next week!