There was a photo booth at the indoor play place.
While I followed Rhema around, Hope and her two adorable friends took lots of pictures inside the booth, wheedling dollar bills out of their parents with their irresistable cuteness.
Whenever the booth was vacant, Rhema would go in by herself, seeking shelter. I could see her little feet swinging beneath the curtain.
I spontaneously dug around in my purse and found three dollar bills.
The best 3 bucks I ever spent. It only lasted a minute, but it was a mother-daughter moment in time I won’t easily forget. Just me and my girl, close, together, squirming, giggling, smiling, cheesing for the camera. The cares of the world melted away in that booth, and I enjoyed her and she enjoyed me. I laughed like I haven’t laughed in a long time and wondered if we’d even get one good shot.
Not ten minutes later, it was time to leave the play zone. Rhema escalated to full tantrum mode, the likes I had not seen in some time. Only now she’s bigger, older and seemingly stronger than someone twice her age. She flopped on the floor and refused to move, while an employee held open the exit door. Hope and my niece Lexi stood by watching and waiting. I lifted her from the ground, tried to stand her to her feet, but she rolled on the floor. We repeated this about 10 times and even my friend Lori tried to help.
It took us a good fifteen minutes to make it to the parking lot, and by then Rhema was beyond upset. We battled all the way to the car. I’d try carrying her and she’d kick and flail and yank my hair until I couldn’t hold her anymore and she’d land in a heap on the ground. Then she’d try running back to the play place. I’d catch her, she’d plant herself on the ground, and the struggle continued.
Was it just minutes ago that we were in the booth having our mother-daughter bonding moment? It’s startling how fast things can change, how you can be on top of the world one minute and then it all comes crashing down in the next.
It’s the moments when your child is hurting you that are most distressing. Judith and I spoke about this recently, and it’s comforting to share with someone whose been there. I have literally said, God, I think I can handle anything – even a life where I never have a conversation with my kid – but I cannot take her physically hurting herself or others. Please, not that. And although you try to take each day as it comes… in the middle of a tantrum when aggressions surface, you start worrying about the future. When your child is even bigger and stronger and you don’t know how you’ll handle it…
I could not get Rhema into her carseat. Simply could not. She squeezed her legs together, screamed, fought my hands. Her hair was a mess, her face blotchy.
All the while I held on to the image of us in the photo booth, convinced that God had given me that time with her to encourage me. It’s just like Him to show us glimpses of His grace in the heat of the battle, in the midst of despair. In my own season of sorrow and confusion, failures and meltdowns, I have known and seen His hand of unfailing grace in my life like never before – dimly at first, then in full view. And it has comforted me, carried me, saved me.
Little one, when you are lost and afraid, remember grace.
Hold on to it. It is enough.
I loved her and whispered against her red hot cheek,
“We have to go now. I’m sorry, baby, we can’t stay.
We have to go now. I’m sorry, baby, we can’t stay.”
I kept repeating it until her breathing slowed and the fight left her, and then she wept. She allowed me to buckle her into her seat. I had two copies of our strip of photos. I handed her one, half expecting her to flap it or rip it to shreds, but she clutched it in her hands.
She held on for dear life to our sweet snapshots of grace.