Hand in hand, my oldest son and I walked down the driveway late this afternoon. The twins ran ahead of us, noisy, as they wove a drunken path of squeals and giggles to Oma's house.
I can't remember the last time Wyatt has walked this stretch of gravel with me, much less the last time he has chosen to stretch out his hand to fit in mine for the journey.
Usually, he's around the corner before my feet leave the carport, rocket-propelled feet flying to beat the wind to see his grandparents at the other end of the farm.
This morning, he had reached for my hand to walk him across the road to the bus for his third day of kindergarten. Now, a few short hours later, he was reaching for me again.
Independence still needs an anchor.
When we rounded the final curve by the twin barns, he asked to take the short cut, then said, "At least I don't run anymore, huh?"
My mind had already entertained that thought, but to hear it from his lips gave voice to my sadness at this change I expected and even wanted yet didn't want either.
Three days in kindergarten, and my ever-bouncing, ever-running Tigger had already succumbed to the structured, slow cadence of civilization that dictates we must walk instead of run, that our feet must be flat and not leave the ground in joyful dance no matter how happy we are inside.
I stopped hard right there in the tall grass by the old Mercedes with the flat tires.
My eyes searched him for sadness or loss and found none. It was just matter of fact. This was what he had been learning. And he had learned. I was to be proud of him. Period.
I opened my hand, setting his free and spoke with all the authority a mother can muster.
"When you're on the farm, you can still run. Now go. Run! Run as fast as you can!"
He didn't ask twice but turned and ran to catch up with his brother, already on the back porch steps.
In a world that seeks to streamline us into adults concerned about standards, outcomes, and test results, a mother must be the one who seeks to create a home where it is safe to be you, safe to explore, create, love, question, speak the name of Jesus, become...
A home where conformity is not desired over individuality. A home where you can bounce, run, and dance your joy in every step; where you can pretend to be a pteranodon one minute and an astronaut the next; where Nerf swords clash, where boxes can be robots, and where you can buy "hunters" at the store by the dozen if they all die battling the coyote.
His teachers will help him learn to sit and walk.
And I will keep reminding him it's still okay to jump and run.
Photos: Wyatt on his first day riding the bus and playing after school in a full-body pteranodon costume.