Our sweet beautiful son just turned two in March and it is truly incredible how exponentially faster the second year seems to have flown by than the first. I suppose that probably continues to be true as they keep getting older and more and more independent and busy. He has also just entered that incredible verbal speech explosion; he is putting two or three words together, naming everything he sees, and tells us about so many things. It is such an incredible joy to really hear a bit of what is going on in his head, and to find out what is important to him, what he notices and it is always much more than I am seeing; the buses, the birds, the cars, the clouds, the moon that is hiding, the airplanes and helicopters, the rocks and trees and "coo toaww," cool towers that we see in this beautiful city of Pittsburgh.
We are so delighted in who and how he is, and truly just can't get enough of him! We miss him when he goes to sleep, (though are very thankful that he is back to sleeping through the night after a rough winter of illnesses and disrupted sleep!) and just love to watch him explore the world. He loves to drive his trains all day long, and he loves Thomas (who for some reason is called "Pie-yay") and Friends. He loves to be outdoors, running and jumping, spinning till he is dizzy, and tries to climb all the biggest trees, terribly frustrated that he cannot seem to make his feet leave the ground. He loves to help; folding laundry (pulling all the clothes out of the basket), with sweeping, with putting things away, "pu-away" and "keen up" his dishes by stacking them all together when he is done eating. He loves to be chased and tickled and he loves one particular song we listen to in the car that says "Oh no, I tried" and he sometimes says "no, no, I tried," at random points throughout the day. He loves to ride the city bus, and visit Daddy at work and asks to pray at least 3 times during every meal. He is well versed in making many animal sounds, which is the sweetest when he looks through his farm animal book by himself, moo-ing and baa-ing and neigh-ing away.
And in this amazing toddler phase there is so much growth, leaps and bounds of it, it is only natural that this little person has some very strong emotions. His outbursts of tears and frustration really show me just how much I need to grow in patience, humility and loving-kindness. How quickly and how easily I become disheveled, anxious and undone! Its funny, because we want to teach our child how to have self-control and how to cope with these big feelings, and I find that I am still very lacking in this myself because his strong emotions can feel so huge and overwhelming to me. And he is the small person who has only been on this earth for two years! If I cannot be the calm, the anchor in his tempest of feelings, how indeed can he learn to calm himself? It is an area I am working to find healing for myself and seeking to learn how to model a calm assurance and unflinching acceptance of these strong, negative feelings like anger and frustration, that he will learn how to feel the big feelings and let them go with healthy release.
Acknowledging and accepting feelings does not mean condoning behaviors that we do not approve of, rather it is seeing the whole person before me, and relating to him in a respectful way, in the same way we, as adults, do not wish to be made to feel invalidated or judged when we experience our own frustrations but rather to be supported, validated, encouraged and understood. To truly see him for who he is, and say, yes you are safe, yes I love you, all of you, even now. I can correct and enforce limits and boundaries, while also being totally accepting of the feelings behind those behaviors (thanks, Janet Lansbury!) Because, is this not the gospel love? That God looks into the worst of me and says, yes! I see you, the real you, the one I made and I love you. He does not withhold his affectionate embrace from me because I have failed, rather, it is then especially so when He stoops, He lingers, He waits, He woos and reminds me of my new nature, not my shortcomings.
This parenting thing- this having a small person who is so very a part of you but apart from you, their own selves, is so hard and so good. It is like a mirror, reflecting to me a truth that is sometimes hard to swallow. I am not the wife, the mother, the person I want to be. I often fail to be as loving, gentle and patient as I want to be. But this is needed; this seeing, really seeing myself. That I may learn, grow and become more of what I was made to be. And it is the same lesson that I am learning to be this support, this accepting, loving and non-shaming guide to my son, so too I must learn to speak with the same gentle voice to my own heart. To tear away the many lies of old hurts and defeating self-talk that tells me I am not enough, and listen for the words of Love Himself, that say "you are mine, you are accepted, you are loved, as you are, in this moment." Because the only way to grow is to fully accept where I am right now, which is training in grace and blessed beyond measure to have these two beautiful people to call my family.
So much of this growing into motherhood has been foreshadowed by the experience of labor and giving birth:
say yes to this pain and it releases you,
say yes to this great unknown and it becomes you,
say yes to stretching wide, making room, let go, breathe, let it be.
just when you thought you'd break, you broke open into someone new,
Mother, meet your baby who has made you.
This is the lesson I learn over and over, layer and layer, deeper through my heart. Not to grit my teeth and try harder, but to lean more into grace. Not to rely on perfect planning or controlling all the variables but to bend, bend low as my Savior does and say, how can I serve you? How can I truly serve this small and beautiful, treasured person before me? Not what I think he needs, but what does he actually need? Not who I think he should be, but who he actually was made to be. Not worshipping my idea of God, but God Himself!
This becoming a mother, this parenting thing, this loving my family thing- it is the smallest of work, day to day and it is the hardest of work. Because it is undoing me, and as I unravel, the defensively constructed frame of all those "should's" fall away and I find that I am becoming someone new. Or perhaps a better way to say it is that this loving my people is the undoing of me, my heart is unlearning and it is leaving only what is real, what is true and what will last forever. Ah, but it happens slowly, stitch by stitch, remaking this life, uncovering that which is of God.
"One day we took the children to see a goldsmith refine gold after the ancient manner of the East. He was sitting beside his little charcoal fire...The medicine does its appointed work on the gold, "then the fire eats it," and the goldsmith lifts the gold out with a pair of tongs, lets it cool, rubs it between his fingers, and if not satisfied puts it back again in fresh medicine. This time he blows the fire hotter than it was before, and each time he puts the gold into the crucible, the heat of the fire is increased; "it could not bear it so hot at first, but it can bear it now; what would have destroyed it then helps it now." "How do you know when the gold is purified?" we asked him, and he answered, "When I can see my face in it, then it is pure.” " - Amy Carmichael