Brady is now three and a half, so this summer one of the churches nearby had a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for preschool age children. Unfortunately, my own church did not have one for Brady’s age group. One of my best friends was going to send her daughter with Brady to the other church’s VBS, but had to back out at the last minute. I already paid the money and thought Brady would have fun, so I decided to let him go anyway even though he wouldn’t really know anyone.
Doug was off the first three days of VBS, so I decided to take Brady myself and stay (we took the picture to the left before we went). When I arrived, I realized all the parents left and I was the only one staying, so I saw a friend there and convinced her to stay with me.
The truth is— I couldn’t leave. Ever since my incident, I haven’t really left my children…and I definitely never leave them with strangers. But, here I was, taking my child to VBS at a church where I don’t know anyone. When I got there, I panicked, realizing that if I left I would be violating two of my rules—never leaving my kids with strangers and always having eyes on the ground (meaning, if I leave, someone I know and trust is there looking after my children). So, I decided to stay and be off where he couldn’t really see me. But when he came out to do activities, I couldn’t help but want to see what he was doing, so I would creep around corners, peek in, and at times be taking video. No matter how I used my spy-skills, he spotted me every time. You see, I didn’t want to miss him smile, laugh and play. These are things I don’t want to miss out on—almost dying made me realize I don’t want to miss a thing—but to others, I can see how I might appear to be the mom who doesn’t want to let go and allow her child to grow.
Because I stuck around, I think I got the reputation with the staff of being THAT MOM— that mom that couldn’t let go and therefore was ruining her child’s ability to engage in the program. Yes—I could tell that from their looks. It got a little embarrassing, so when I saw his teacher, I felt the need to justify my being there. While the program was going on, I saw her step out for a moment, and I said, “Here’s the thing, 10 and a half months ago, I died and survived this major ordeal, and well, quite frankly, I don’t want to leave my son…it’s too soon.” After the words came out of my mouth, I wish I could have taken them back! What was I doing trying to explain my year in a sentence—I could not do it justice—and worse, I think it made me look even crazier and now this confused woman was pitying me—oh there is nothing worse than pity!!
When I got home and told Doug, he and I agreed the next day we should just leave Brady there by himself. I knew it would be best for him and the program to not have me there as a distraction, but it did not sit well with me. We dropped him off and before leaving I asked the teacher a hundred questions like, “If Brady has to use the restroom, who will take him, etc.” If I was going to leave him, I felt I needed to be informed of who he would be with at all times (I worry about his safety).
I left and Doug, Ella and I went to a coffee shop around the corner. We were gone for about an hour and on our way back home, Ella started to cry and needed to be fed. Since the church was close by, I convinced Doug to feed Ella in the parking lot while I peeked in on Brady. Doug said to me, “I don’t think it’s a good idea—they are going to think you are crazier (I had already informed him of my thoughts the day before), and if you go in snooping—It’s not going to look good.” I said, “Honey, no one will see me; I will be so stealth, I promise—I’ll go in and out—I just have to see how he’s doing.” He gave me a frown as I ran in the back door. I poked my head around the corner and realized all the kids were in the classrooms. I tiptoed over to Brady’s room and peered ever so “stealth” into the window, but HE WASN’T THERE. I panicked for a second and then heard from behind me, “Mommy.” Oh no, I thought, my ever-so-stealth approach was not working out for me. I looked behind me and Brady and his teacher were standing there looking at me confused. She had just taken him to the bathroom. He went back into his classroom and I felt the need to say something to his teacher. I’m sure now she thought I had totally lost it my mind, so I said, “Boy, is my husband going to be mad about this—he told me not to come in and I thought I could just peak in and check up on Brady.” She gave me a funny grin and went back in.
I felt embarrassed, and then had to tell Doug that he was right. Doug was equally embarrassed for me although we couldn’t help but laugh about it!! When I returned to pick him up during the last song the kids were singing, the organizer came up to me and said, “He’s been having a great time; you don’t need to worry. He was fine without you the whole time.” Now, I knew I was being viewed as “THAT MOM!” Because this woman mentioned how he did, that meant word had gotten around about me to the other staff since she felt the need to let me know he was doing just fine—without me.
I felt like I totally bombed our first VBS experience! I needed a do-over! Well, you may not understand this—but I didn’t let him finish the last three days. I know what some of you are thinking—“Oh Melanie, how could you not let him go back!!” Let me explain!
After Doug and I spoke more about what was so unsettling for me, I uncovered what my real problem was. (I share more about this in my book, but I’ll give you the brief here). After returning home from the hospital, Brady was very distant from me since I was gone for a week, and when I arrived home, I was out of it and really unable to care for him. This caused him to reject me often and be very distant. It took me months to assure him that I wasn’t going anywhere again. I feel like he thought I abandoned him during that time. So, I felt like leaving him at VBS may make him feel like I was abandoning him, again. He even said to me after that second day, “Mom, you can stay—I saw other moms there.” (I told him the moms don’t stay—but the truth is some do because they volunteer to be the teachers). He’s three and there are plenty more years he can do VBS (in my own parish next time where people know us and know that I’m not really “That Mom”), but not this year—this has been a year of uncertainty and chaos as I was living most of it in survival mode. He doesn’t need to be without his momma this year– at age three. So, we finished out the week doing lots of fun activities and singing Bible songs together. He never even asked about VBS. In his mind, he didn’t know how long he was going for, so for all he knew, that was the last day for everyone.
Also, I failed to mention…this was the week of my birthday, so that was another reason why I decided that it would be fun just to be together! In the picture below there is Doug, Brady, Ella and my nephews at a splash pad on my birthday.
Maybe you think I’m crazy for not letting Brady go back, but I felt very content after making the decision. Next year, I will do it the right way! I won’t leave him with a bunch of strangers and instead, I will sign him up at our church with his friends and where my friends are the teachers. Plus, I will probably volunteer myself!! That way, I can still be with him and help fulfill a needed volunteer role. Chances are, I still won’t feel comfortable leaving him!
My poor son is never getting rid of me—as long as I can help it– I don’t want to miss a thing!
Note: If you haven’t heard, the book is out!! Click on the link to the side and it will take you to The Day I Died: Finding Hope in Suffering’s book page. Please help me spread the word about it! I can’t wait to hear your feedback, so if you do read it, leave a comment and let me know what you thought! It should also be available on Amazon this week!