(This year I’m paying tribute to all the “moms” who are “dads” too. Happy Father’s Day to you. And to all the real dads (like mine) and grandpa’s out there who have earned the title.)

A baby wakes his mother at 2:00am, and she’s distracted from a bad dream she wanted to end. 

Her eyes open slightly and she’s suddenly aware of every muscle in her body, a still-swollen belly, and cramps so painful she flinches. The mother takes this baby into her arms and is distracted by the splendor of his ocean blue eyes peering into her own as she feeds him. The baby tugs at her breast and she rocks him gently, singing him back to sleep. 

As the baby grows and discovers his world, he stumbles. He finds amusing objects to fit into his mouth, and he wails when fever hits and he learns about pain though he doesn’t have words to describe it. The mother is distracted with worries and fear, so she reads “Dr. Mom,” asks other mothers for advice, says a few prayers, and soothes him. 

Before long, the child discovers his own way and sees how big the world is. He goes about exploring the rivers and mountains and friends and music. And while he’s creating his future, the mother is distracted with the stress of her job, paying the bills, taking care of her home, and doing her best to be mother of the year for this boy and his sister. She’s so distracted, she loses a sense of herself and then wonders where the time went. Absorbed with school projects, band concerts, and wrestling matches, her life is full. So full she doesn’t see that one day her child will be grown and on his own. 

Now the mother is distracted with new worries and fears. Will he be safe? Will he make good decisions? And will he find love? When the answer to all these questions is “yes” the mother becomes distracted with life-changing events that fill her heart with pride and gratitude—his graduations, a spectacular wedding after finding his love, and the most cherished gift—a new baby. 

A grandchild is the best kind of distraction because now the mother has more to love, and her life is too full for worry. She only has time for silly games, ABC songs, books about dinosaurs, and hide and seek. Her world is all about building forts, playing catch, baking cookies, and sleepover parties.

Then one day the mother realizes her child is a success. He has become the man she hoped he would be–adventurous, caring, and wise. She’s as proud as the day he was born. He’s ready, he says, to explore the big world, and before she has time to worry, the mother is saying goodbye. She can’t wait to visit. And though she’s distracted by miles between them, she knows he is happy. Her heart is full. 

The mother’s distractions don’t end there. She loses sleep about what she’ll do next. She looks around inside her new world, and it seems much smaller, still filled with distractions. A stack of books waiting to be opened. A memoir screaming to be finished. A mind to grow, a body to nourish, a heart to mend. She’ll step into the light and discover that there’s more to learn, more to do, and more to become. 

But she’ll need some distractions. Give her distractions. Her world is nothing without them.

(PS: In case you’re wondering, I did find two beautiful distractions who also love dinosaurs!)

*published by Pure Slush Books, Love Lifespan Anthology, Vol. 4, 2021.

Author: Leslie J. Cox

Leslie Cox is a writer of creative non-fiction, focusing on personal essay and memoir. Her essay “My Favorite Chair” was a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she published two essays in “Her Vase” in 2020. Her essay "Distracted" appeared in the Pure Slush anthology: "Love, Lifespan," and she has enjoyed contributing to guest blogs and book reviews. Prior to semi-retiring from health care administration in 2019, Leslie wrote and published trade articles and a guidebook for health care professionals for HCPro. When she’s not writing, Leslie tutors students K-12 in the craft of writing, and that fills her up!

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