I was sitting in church the other day marveling at all the wee ones bouncing, crawling, drooling, spilling, and giggling all around me. We have a remarkably fertile church – I think there’s an actual term in Christian-ese called “biological expansion of the congregation” – and watching all the littles and their beautiful mommies and daddies brings me great joy.
One never knows when a wave of nostalgia might break. Seeing all those littles called to mind the many things I miss about being the mom of littles, now that my four babies can dress themselves and load the dishwasher and roll their eyes. Here are just a few of them:
~Naps…Yep, not gonna lie, the struggle to get a house full of toddlers and infants to sleep all at the same time was a gargantuan challenge. As soon as one would drift off, sweet milk seeping from the corner of rosebud lips, another would pop his or her curious tousled head up out of the covers and ask, “Can I get up now?” Dear One, it’s only been five minutes. NO YOU MAY NOT GET UP NOW. Mommy needs at least an hour before she can cope with the afternoon. One ridiculous year, I had not only my own children, but also the daycare kids I watched to “put down” (that sounds so deliciously final, doesn’t it?) for their naps. Every day, one little, whose mom confessed, “I can never get him to nap; it’s just too hard,” protested during this most holy time with a violence totally out of proportion to what I was asking of him. (It’s a nap, Cooper, not the SAT’s). I, being the ADULT, and hence, in charge, would wait out his tearful protests until at last, with great drama, he would succumb. Hours later, he would awake in full scream, always with a diaper full of poo; I suppose he thought that made us even. But when it worked…all of us deep in REM unison, the house’s hushed ticking like the rocking of a boat, it was a marvelous and spiritual thing. Of course, I can nap now. But without the struggle, it doesn’t feel nearly as victorious.
~Nursing… Are you kidding me? Is there anything more intimate and soothing and sacred than nursing the blood of your blood, flesh of your flesh? (Well, perhaps the event that inspired the baby’s genesis, but this is a post about littles). Morning, noon, and night – and mid-morning, late morning, late afternoon, late evening, midnight, dawn, and any other time an empty belly cries – mothers are given the awesome privilege of actually feeding their human babies with the extract of their own bodies. This is a deep, deep mystery, and one that I dearly miss. Young mothers, may I suggest that never again will you be able to meet your child’s express need so precisely than when you are able to nurse them from misery to bliss? Stop, sit, cuddle, coo. With all the other crazy that comes with the territory of being a new mom, I think God really knew what He was doing with this one.
~Smaller battles… Honestly, I can remember times when the little’s decision whether to wear a sensible outfit or his Pokemon costume to a playdate was a battle to the death (and looking back, why did I even care?) Now that my littles are big, however, and can speak with real words and use sneaky logic, it is harder to know who’s actually in charge. Smaller people, smaller battles. But make no mistake: we are exhorted to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Train, train, train with everything you’ve got because, sooner than you’d ever believe was possible, your little will be asking for the car keys or talking to (gasp) girls, and unless the seeds you have sown are faithfulness and self-control, you will be fielding phone calls from the police or your son’s school (or so I’ve heard…wink…sigh).
~They stay put… When you put a baby down, say, on the floor or in a jog stroller, as a general rule, that’s where you will find them when you look for them again. Teenagers have way too many moving parts and are unwilling to be tied down to anything as tedious as an agenda. I’m heading out to hang with the boys, Ma, I’ll see ya later is the most specific information I can expect from my 19-year-old on any given Friday night. Which boys? Out where? Define “later.” It’s constantly in flux, and for this reason, I am grateful for the iPhone. On the other hand, that astonished look on a baby’s face when you pop yours back into their field of vision after a short hiatus is as comical as it is dear. Wait! You were back there the whole time? Nobody told me! I miss that.
~ Bedtime… Don’t get me wrong. Spending the day with a little, or a herd of them, can be wild and unpredictable and exhilarating. I loved every waking moment I spent with my wiggly littles. But no matter how you may feel, you’ve gotta put your game face on every morning, especially when it involves a trip to the grocery store or your in-laws. Days with littles are looooong. At the end of the day, though, when all the tears have been kissed away and they’re bathed and jammied and tucked in tight, the most magical thing happens. You open their favorite book and even though they’ve heard goodnight comb, and goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush a million and one times before, and even though you might still be harboring a wee bit of resentment over the jelly incident at lunch, the warmth and the stillness close in until the universe compacts into just the two of you. Your breathing slows as a chubby hand reaches out to twirl a strand of your hair. Your cheeks touch. You whisper prayers. Soon, your little’s tiny body is curled up like a comma and you wonder if it’s even worth it to get up and move to your own bed. These days, I’m lucky if I outwit, outlast, or outplay my bigs’ bedtimes. More often than not, I’m poking my head into their room on the way to making the next day’s coffee and smiling at the bulky heap of their cusp-of-adulthood bodies, so reassuringly there, a shadow of what once-was. I suppose this, too, is magical, but not at all in the same way.
My biggest little is married now. And though I miss her once babyfine curls and small sweet voice, I am comforted by this profound truth found in the book of Ecclesiastes: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…
One day, she and her brothers might have littles of their own, and what joy will fill my heart then!
The apostle Paul reminds us that it is not God’s way to leave us in one place for too long. He writes: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Our wise God has given us seasons to enjoy, and it’s good to revel in the now-ness of them as well as to look back and treasure.
As much as we would love to linger, He moves us ever-on, growing and learning and becoming, so that one day, we will stand before Him in all our Christ-likeness, no longer in-part but, at last, complete.