I woke up to the sound of wailing.
Caught between wakefulness and sleep, I tried to make sense of the noise that easily overpowered our obnoxious window unit. Very quickly I realized that Parker was roaming through the downstairs hallway in unfiltered torment.
“I WANT DAAAADDY! I WANT DAAAADDY!” He sobbed over and over again. Soon his footsteps trod up the steps and into his own bedroom. I crawled out of bed and went to check on the birthday boy. This was not how I imagined we would start the day.
He had tucked his knees under his belly and rolled into a ball on his bed. I sat down beside him and scooped him up onto my lap.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked as I wrapped my arms around him. “Daddy’s gone running. He’ll be back soon.” Sniffles and wails filled the space between my words. “What’s wrong?”
He sucked in a few deep breaths of air. His red face was curled away from me as he explained, “Der’s no pawty, Mom. I went downstayers and der’s no pawty.”
Now I understood. He had visions of waking to a grand party in full swing. He would come down the stairs with expectant eyes and spy dozens of balloons scattered across the living room floor. We would all be awake and waiting on him. In unison we’d shout, “Happy Birthday, Parker!” Red and blue streamers would dangle from the doorways like jungle vines and “Uptown Funk” would play through the house. Games and dancing would ensue.
Instead, he had come downstairs to what looked to be any other day. A messy house, most everyone still in bed. Der was no pawty.
I snuggled him close and swayed back and forth while his tears wet my shirt. The achey river of disappointment snaked its way through both of us. I knew that there was nothing I could do to make it better, to soothe his heartache. This may be one of his earliest let downs, but it would not be his last. Life is littered with a great many fallen hopes. As I cradled Parker in my arms, I felt the great divide between expectation and reality, and realized that not a one of us escape the chasm between the two.
Even the youngest of us are learning to make peace with our heartache. Fortunately, three-year-olds are easily redirected with a reminder that their favorite breakfast is waiting in the refrigerator. They head downstairs, scoop a heaping spoonful of overnight oats into a wide open mouth and the world is suddenly right again. At least for a little while.