It's true, what they say- it goes by way too fast. I cannot believe you are 15 months old today, beautiful boy! There could never be enough enjoying you at any age. We simply cannot imagine our lives without you, and we didn't know how much we had been missing you until you were here! You, simply being here, being alive, your character, who you are fills us with wonder, with delight and with such gratitude that we get to be your Momma and Daddy.
This first year of parenthood, of motherhood for me, has been so very full. Full of sleepless nights and endless questioning and self-doubt, full of delight at all your firsts, full of joy watching you grow and learn, full of refinement and growth; exposing my selfishness and impatience- stretching, shattering, sanctifying me.
It's strange how all that fullness can leave me feeling so very empty. I am worn thin, tired and ragged, coming to the fraying edges from physical exhaustion and the repetition of our days. I know this work is the most important, this shaping, this forming, these early experiences with your world- I feel the weight of the position I have to speak into who you are becoming and how you see the world. It is weighty and grave and wonderful.
But I cannot dwell too much in those deep thoughts, my mind is full of the keeping to our schedule for the sake of good sleep, where to go on our walk today, what to give you for lunch today, should I fold that pile of laundry that is two weeks old, or try to take a nap while you sleep today? I can get lost in trying to plan and have some semblance of control and order to our days. They say "enjoy every moment" but that isn't possible, that pressure isn't helpful when you are in it, IN it, day to day to day. And all the days run into one. One long day, of small things. I catch glimpses of it though, as I sit and watch your hands while you pick up your food, I think about how I will blink and they will be the hands of a man, strong, and large and unrecognizable, unfamiliar to me and I am grateful to have you close, so very close right now.
Parenthood is a great exercise in learning the art of letting go. But that's not quite right. It's not a "letting go" the way a balloon flies out of hand and you watch it drift away. It's not so detached or passive. It's the very opposite of that. It is overwhelming, overflowing and flooding into me- all that is called forth from me. The pouring out of myself, the giving over of myself to your beating heart, breathing chest, blooming mind, burning soul, and somehow- within the same gesture of "give"- to hold back, reign myself in, to wait, observe, to trust, to trust, to trust in you, be quiet and sit still long enough to give you the chance, the space, the openness to find out for yourself, how brilliant and capable and bright you are!
What is it like? Like labor. Like giving birth was.
The more I tried to control or plan, the more struggle I had to endure to let go of the expectations to accept the reality of birth, the unexpectedness of giving birth. The more I surrendered to the wave upon wave of contractions, the wave upon wave of work that is called forth from me to raise and grow you, my precious babe, the more I can see parenthood from a higher perspective and enjoy it for what it truly is. Enjoy you, for who you are, as you are, in this moment. Not the things hoped for or expected. But this real person, full of the surprising! The more I trusted myself and trusted you, my baby, the more I felt connected and in tune and knew we could do this-knew I could birth and you could be born. What a perfect picture for the life of a parent. Learning to trust, by resting and leaning into the unknowns, press into the uncomfortable, the strain, the labor, a labor for love - so that who you really are may be made known.
How I wish I could have held clearly in my mind this: blown expectations are blessings, leaving me empty to receive great grace. Emptied of the worry and anxiety, the fearful doubts and can'ts and won'ts and should's- making room to be filled with something greater. The growing and shaping of another soul is transforming my own.
This is real art. Beautiful in it's breaking of me, making golden-wrought glory out of all my lack. For your reactions to the world are a delight to behold, always surprising me- the way your eyebrows raise when you pick up something new, this blade of grass, this tiny smooth stone, this rough piece of bark. The way I look into your beautiful baby-toddler eyes with long lashes and so full of wonder, asking myself when did their color change from dark grey-blue to this golden-green?
It is humbling, a great, continuous, relentless exercise in servanthood- I cannot eat, sleep, pee or take a break when I want to. I must give more, I must give all, I am faced with my weakness, my need again and again, and again. I must acknowledge my limitedness, my imperfections, or they will crush me, stifling and chase me down, uneasy with dread and comparison.
It seems like my days are full of nothings- un-noticeables, un-measureables. And that is true. Sometimes a whole week goes by and I really couldn't say what exactly I've done, but I know that I've been busy, flopping exhausted into bed at night, yet unable to fall asleep. But, there is no measure of the perfect full belly laughter from a child enthralled with peek-a-boo, the curl of tiny toes holding on to carpet so tightly with the effort of those first solo steps, the proud delight on your baby-turning into-boy-face as you know your power! My days are filled with small things, these nothing things- not worth noting to the world whipping by. That is my day.
But your days are full, so very full! I watch as your days fill up with steps, steps, steps, you running everywhere. I love the little tap-tap-tap of your feet as you race off to your next adventure. So decisive, so certain, so sure of what your next task will be. I marvel at you! Your days are full of discovering the same things, again, anew. I am in awe of your calculating mind, your endlessly genuine curiosity and determination to figure things out. You are full to the brim and overflow with feeling so much, you enjoy your food more than I think I could, relishing each bite and watch the birds in the yard out our window while you eat. You laugh more easily, more fully than I can. You are nonstop in your exploration and dislike interruptions to put on sunscreen and shoes and clean diapers. You go from flat out running to fast asleep in a span of 15 minutes and I envy that ease with which you can slip into sleep.
I love how sometimes you drift off sleepy in my arms, cuddled into my chest, comforted, nourished and still- for those few brief moments, I breathe you in, trying to memorize the curves of your eyes, lashes and cheeks, and I touch my forehead to yours just to feel you breathing- in and out, your soft breath, sweeter than a lilac scented breeze. For I know in another week I will wonder, when did you get to be so big? Already the little baby who fit so snugly in my lap has given way to dangling toddler limbs, draping over and falling off of me while I hug your warmness close before I lay you in your crib. And while I am relieved in the quiet of the naptime hour, the chance to listen to the buzzing in my head, I miss you so already, while you are in your private, quiet world of sleep.
This is an ancient practice, this raising babies, growing them tall, but to know if for myself, has made me feel quite solitary and lonely. There is a certain solidarity in seeing other mothers and knowing they have these same struggles too. But no one can struggle for you.
And that is true of the joys, the highs too. No one else gets to be your Momma. No one else gets to feel this special bond with little you- who came from my womb. To watch the world blossom in your wonder-wide eyes touches eternity- so many have been here, but never just like this. Never this moment here with you.
You struggle too. The growth that happens in this first year is undeniably a miracle. How do hands so small, I can hardly see the nails grow to be so strong and capable, opening boxes, banging on the piano keys, turning pages of books?! And a toothless smile become a giddy-goofy kid grin poked with new and shining teeth? It took a year, but it was a moment, a breath and I can hardly even remember what it was like, what you were like when you could not crawl or walk and did not talk in your baby-babble all day long. All those little moments that I can barely recall, many forever forgotten though are what has brought us here- to this you, little toddler boy, running fast ahead of me, squealing with delight.
And I see clearly now, do not let me forget this, that struggle is what shapes us and on the other side of it is shining light and a softer, stronger, deeper heart. You need struggle. Let me not forget. Just as I have struggled into motherhood, you must struggle into your own skin. But that is what I want more than anything- to reveal to you the real you. Gift you encouragement, acknowledgement and my very present presence, and hold this knowing- that I cannot struggle for you, and would not want to take that from you for the beauty that it brings.
Seeing through the exhaustion and the repetition of our days, the (not) napping, eating, playing- seeing through and dirt of earth- and flesh-bound living to the heaven-high glory of dirty-with-discovery toddler hands, mud in the fingernails, you are soaking in all of life. Your bursts of laughter and tears, you, so captivated by the simple. You are recalling to my soul what is most important, what is truly good. Echoes of a knowing that I've forgotten. Feel this grass. Taste this wind. Be still and know. And you do know. You know things I do not. You are aglow with it; genuine, wholehearted and true. I am learning so much from you.
You are not mine, and you never were. You are from within me, you grew inside my body, and I have shiny purple marks, on my stomach, fading now that you are walking- they mirror each other- like palms opening, like a blossoming flower, showing me where you grew, but still, you are not mine. You are my son, and because of that, I belong to you. I have always been wanting, missing you. But, your beautiful little-big soul is a singular, specific creation singing of an infinitely creative Creator- bestowing us, mother and father, with love that expands our hearts- so full we know love must really last forever.
"For who has despised the day of small things?" -Zechariah 4:10