Shadow Play

“So what did you do today, sweetie?” I asked my three-year-old at dinner as he picked at his squash. “I don’t know,” he said automatically, and my husband and I had to laugh. This is what he says every time we ask him this question. In fact, he says it almost before we’ve even had a chance to complete the question. But we know better. Every week, we download his class’ weekly lesson plan from our day care’s website, so that we know what he’s doing in class each day.

“Did you maybe learn about shadows?” I asked him. “Yeah!” he said happily. And we went on to discuss shadows and groundhogs, and then the conversation turned to My Dallas (his imaginary place) and his new bear Nemo, and then, before we knew it, dinner was over.

After dinner, it was such a beautiful night that it seemed like it was literally beckoning us to come outdoors. So, rather than go get in our jammies like usual, we all went outside. “It’s perfect,” my son exclaimed, and I had to laugh. He ran in circles, and I spread out a blanket in the yard. “Come lie down,” I told my son, and he collapsed beside me, still dizzy from all of his spinning. Baby Brother (14 months) lay down too, because he has gotten to the age where he wants to do everything that Big Brother does.

And we all three just lay there for a moment, feeling the breeze and looking up at the sky. “What are we doing, Mommy?” my son whispered. “We’re looking at the stars, sweetheart,” I said, and he was quiet for a moment before he grabbed up brother in a bear hug and they both started to giggle. “Get up now, Mommy!” my son – never able to stay still for long – said, and so I did, with the baby in my arms and my oldest by the hand.

As I stood, I noticed that the porchlight cast our shadows in sharp relief against the back fence. They caught me off guard, and I almost held my breath. It was beautiful to see my little baby’s silhouette there, sitting so content on my hip. And there was my three-year-old, with his new haircut and his long limbs. In studying their shadows, it made me stop for a moment and to see them – really see them – with fresh eyes. They’re so little, but they’re growing so fast. Before long, their shadows will be as tall as my own. And in that moment I hugged them each a little tighter, grateful for the evening, and the shadows, and the chance to see my boys in a new light.

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