I was sniffing men’s deodorant when our eyes met.
Her grocery cart was piled high with diapers and baby wipes, and the toddler in the front seat was pulling tissues from her purse and shredding them into tiny scraps of homemade confetti.
But she was too busy staring at me to notice her little one’s antics.
I don’t blame her for gawking. After all, it’s not every day that you spy a forty-year-old woman sniffing pit protection in aisle twelve.
It’s crazy what a mom will do for her kids.
I’m not sure what made me think of that awkward moment today.
Maybe it was the way my firstborn flashed me a sleepy smile reminiscent of his little boy grin as he came up the stairs this morning.Or perhaps it was the blue-capped stick of deodorant that was sticking out of the gym bag right next to the box of mittens in the coatroom.
But for whatever reason, the unexpected memory from yesteryear swept me back to that sultry summer’s day when I realized that my little boy wasn’t ever going to be little again...
I’d been scribbling a grocery list at the kitchen counter when my firstborn had mumbled that he was out of deodorant.
I’d nodded and promised to get him a new stick, then I’d jotted his name just below the word Cheerios as a reminder of his need. I’d grabbed my purse, stuffed my phone in my pocket, and turned toward the door. That’s when my son had finally looked up from the Sports Illustrated he was reading and nonchalantly mentioned that his best friend used something that smelled really good.
I’d slowed my hustle, looked long into my thirteen-year-old’s baby blues and tried to interpret this new bit of information.
“So, you want me to buy you a different kind of deodorant?” I’d asked as I unfolded my list and reached for a pen.
He’d shrugged his shoulders and murmured something about how it was time to stop smelling like Dad.
I’d laughed and suggested that smelling like his father was better than smelling like his mother. But when I’d realized my son was serious, I’d swallowed my giggles and assured him that it was fine to smell like his best friend, too.
“What’s it called?” I’d queried, ready to jot down the name of that fabulous fragrance.
“I think it’s Axe or something,” my teen had replied.
“Okay,” I’d said, scratching those three letters at the bottom of my list. “Any certain scent?”
“I don’t know for sure,” he’d hum-hawed, “but it’s the one with the blue lid…”
My son had crinkled his forehead and cast me a dubious glance.
I’d waved my grocery list at him like a soldier’s solute and had flashed my son a super-mom wink. “I can figure it out,” I’d said as I sauntered to the garage and headed to Walmart.
Of course, I had no idea how complicated it would be to keep my promise.
Who knew that one brand of armpit protection could come in so many fragrances?
Three rows of them to be exact. At least a dozen of those bearing blue caps.
I’d stood in aisle twelve feeling more stupefied than super and had wondered how I’d ever find the best bud scent.
I’d scanned at all those sticks like a little girl surveying the ice cream flavors at Baskin Robbins. Except the flavors I was considering didn’t exactly sound tasty. They were more like a string of buzz words I might overhear while waiting for an oil change….
Or like the titles of those bad-boy video games that aren’t allowed in our home…
Or like the name of a head-throbbing heavy metal band…
For a moment, I’d wanted to abandon my mission and go find a Baskin Robbins, but I’d glanced at my watch and realized that soon the teenager in need of a new scent would also be in need of a ride to baseball practice. So I did what any good mom would do. I grabbed all the choices with blue caps and began popping off the lids, snuffing each stick like a superhero on a mission.
By the time that young mom had caught my eye, I was feeling light-headed from the fumes.
I flashed her a lame smile and wondered if I should explain myself.
Maybe I needed to let her know that even though I’d lost my little boy, I hadn’t lost my mind.
But before I could even choke out the word teenager, that confetti-tossing-toddler reached for a bottle of Scooby Doo bubble bath and knocked a bar of soap to the floor with a clatter. His startled mom quickly dropped my gaze and turned to deal with the shopping fiasco at hand.
I pried off the blue lid on an antiperspirant labeled Fusion and wondered if confusion would be a more accurate name for the thick, musky scent.
That’s when the little guy in the cart down the aisle began to whine. He wanted that green bottle of Scooby Doo bubble bath!
Sweet Mama was trying to calmly explain why they needed to buy the pink one instead. She had a coupon for that brand and it was a dollar and seventy five cents cheaper than the Scooby Doo kind.
But Little Guy wasn’t easily deterred. He begged and cried and voiced his opinion in a scratchy soprano squeal until his poor mama’s eyes brimmed with frustrated tears. Finally, Little Guy kicked the cart with an emphatic clank and proclaimed at the top of his lungs, ”But, Mommy! Scooby smells better!”
I grabbed my purse and started digging for loose change.
I wanted to hand that darling mama a dollar and seventy-five cents.
I wanted to throw a warm arm around her frazzled frame and tell her what a great mommy she is–cutting coupons and carrying tissues and maintaining her calm in the midst of Walmart warfare. And as I watched the red rise from her neck to her forehead, I wanted to give her permission to splurge on that green bottle of bubble bath. I wanted to tell her to ditch the coupon and rub those Scooby suds all over her little man’s soft pink skin and just soak in the beauty of it all.
I wanted to tell that mama who could’t even imagine life without a diaper bag that her screaming son was right– Scooby Doo does smell better than Snake Peel or Combustion or any other man-scent, as far as I can tell.
I wanted to warn her that seasons have a way of changing when we’re not looking, and if she turns her head just for a moment, that same boy who’s screeching for bubble bath in aisle twelve won’t even want to take a bath at all. And the son who once smelled like baby powder and sticky sweet lollipops will suddenly smell like beef jerky and sweaty old gym socks. On a good day, that is.
I wanted to whisper grace into her red-topped ears and share a smile in that narrow Walmart aisle. I wanted to tell her that I know the hours feel endless and the weeks seem long, but the moments and the days and the years are going to slip right through the slats in that shopping cart. And before she can say Scooby Doo, she’ll find herself sniffing deodorant in the aisles of Wal Mart and wishing that the only thing her son had asked for was a bright green bottle of bubble bath marked with a goofy brown dog.
I wanted to hug away the angst I heard in her voice, all pinched and tired, and just encourage her to savor her right now no matter how exasperating and exhausting it feels.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I prayed.
As that Sweet Mama scooted out of sight with her howling toddler and her pink bottle of bubble bath, I prayed for her.
And for me.
And for every women raising sons in this ever-watching world.
I stood shameless in aisle twelve with a blue-capped stick of deodorant in one hand and a handful of change in the other, and I asked God to give us wisdom and grace to raise a generation of sweet-smelling boys.
‘Cause, in the end, no matter what scent our sons slap under their arms or what soap they lather on their skin, we mamas simply want their lives to be marked by the irresistible fragrance of Christ.
My phone rang and an impatient voice cracked in my receiver. “What’s taking you so long, Mo-om?”
I mumbled something about sampling flavors at Baskin Robbins, then grabbed the only stick of deodorant I hadn’t yet inspected and tossed it into my cart. After all, as far as my tingling nose could tell, the ones with the blue lids all smell the same!
So, tell me, friend….what one thing do you pray most for your child? Leave your answer in the comments and I’ll join you in prayer.