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A Target for Life. ~ Rachel Macy Stafford

I reached into her pajamas drawer unconsciously grabbing the worn polka-dotted flannel that felt like home in my hand.

“Those don’t fit me anymore, Mama,” my six-year-old daughter informed ever so gently, as if somehow knowing those words could literally break my heart.

“Are you sure they don’t fit?” I asked with a hint of desperation in my voice. “Could we just see?” I already had the head opening of the pajamas prepped and ready for her curly head of hair.

My easy-going child shrugged and happily pulled the pajamas over her head to appease me. But as she struggled to stuff her six-year-old arms into size four armholes, we began to laugh.

“Okay, you were right, “I grinned. But honestly, I wanted to cry.

“I know you love my panda ‘jams, Mama,” my child consoled. Oh yes. That little girl has always been an observant one. “But instead of putting them back in my drawer, maybe you could keep them in a safe place.”

It was my daughter’s nice way of telling me to stop putting them back in her drawer. And as much as I hated to admit it, she was right; it was time to retire the panda pajamas. But I certainly wouldn’t be stuffing them into a donation bag with other outgrown clothes. You see, the panda was my target when I really, really needed a target. It was my target for letting to go to live.

It was my target for a Hands Free life.

My daughter was wearing these pajamas the first time I turned away from breakfast making, school permission slip signing, and phone ringing to hold her. Just hold her. That morning, I saw clearly that those “things” didn’t matter when it’s 6:41 a.m. and your child comes downstairs with bedhead and sleepy eyes wanting to be held.

And so every morning after that, when I spotted the panda coming down the stairs, I saw my target—my target for focusing on my beautiful child, if only for a few loving minutes each morning.

My daughter was also wearing these pajamas when I started listening to her heartbeat at bedtime each night. I realized that my hurried existence had caused human touch and connection to wane. And even though she was no longer a baby, she still needed her mama’s touch. So one night I asked my child if I could place my head on her chest and listen—just listen to the sound of her heart.

“Put your head on the panda,” my child offered pointing directly to the bear’s face. And so once again, the panda was my target. When I placed my head on the black and white appliqué, I heard the sound of calmness and peace; I heard the sound of hope for my hurried soul.

And so every night after that, when I saw the panda peeking out beneath the folds of a lime-green comforter, I saw my target—a target for focusing on my beautiful child, if only for a few loving minutes each night.

So you see, these pajamas were not just a piece of flannel material that kept my child warm at night. They were my anchor, my lifeline to what really mattered in a sea of distraction. And my daughter knew this. She saw the way I suddenly woke up when I looked at her in those hot pink polka dots. But what she didn’t know is that sometimes on those hard days when I was trying to find my way to a Hands Free life, I would watch her sleep.

You see, as I became less and less tied to my distractions, I became more aware of what I’d missed during my distracted years—especially with this particular child who was not yet in school at that time. I often wondered what damage I had caused by being there, but not really being there for those two distracted years. But when I crept into her bedroom and studied her face, I saw an indescribable look of peace blanketing her lovely features. I saw that she was going to be okay. And even though I wasn’t emotionally present for part of her life, I could say, “I’m here now, baby. I’m here now.” And just acknowledging that significant fact gave me hope.

Let me just say this. If you haven’t watched your child sleep in awhile, I encourage you to do so. Creep in quietly and gaze at the peace on your child’s beautiful face. And then look at those pajamas. Those particular pajamas are only here for a season. A season. But that is not meant to make you sad. Oh no, that is meant to make you feel hopeful.

Think about it like this …

If you find yourself in a season of struggle, faced with one challenge after another, know that it will pass. Tomorrow you will be stronger having endured these hardships.

If you find yourself in a season of uncertainty—not knowing who you are or who you want to be, know that you will find your way. Today you are asking the right questions to get yourself there.

If you find yourself in a season of disappointment—regret for the choices you’ve made or the life you’ve been living, know that tomorrow is a new day. You have awareness that you didn’t have before, and you will choose more wisely now.

Pajamas have a season.

Children have a season.

Each and every one of us has a season.

Despite what happened last season, today begins a new season. Today you are waking up to what matters in life. And whether those pajamas have pandas, Ninja Turtles, or superheroes, stop and gaze at that precious human being and remember, your children will eventually outgrow those pajamas—but they will never outgrow your love.

So if you aim to start and end each precious day with love and attention, there’s a mighty good chance you’ll hit the target.

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rachel Macy Stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher with a Master’s Degree in education and ten years of experience working with parents and children. In December 2010, this life-long writer felt compelled to share her journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters by creating the blog “Hands Free Mama.” Using her skills as a writer, teacher, and encourager, Rachel provides readers with simple, non-intimidating, and motivating methods to let go of distraction and connect with their loved ones. Rachel’s work has been featured in USA Today, TIME.comMSN.comPBS.org, The Huffington Post, and Reader’s Digest. Her blog currently averages 1 million visitors a month. Rachel lives in Alabama with her husband and two children who inspire her daily. Her first book, Hands Free Mama, is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and hits shelves in January.