My morning shower is sacred ground. It’s the only time in my day free of baby tears and puppy smell, so I embrace it. I take my sweet time, separate from my family but not so far that I can’t hear Joy cooing or Jeffrey firmly telling her ‘no.’ She’s at that age now where we’re trying to introduce gentle discipline, so our days are filled with ‘no, Joy’ on repeat.
So, our mornings look a little bit like this- while daddy gets ready, Joy and mommy eat a bit, play a bit, and then have a big-girl breakfast (usually consisting of some sort of fruit along with oatmeal or whatever I feel like making). At this point daddy takes over to clean up the mess and sets her aside for individual play time (Hallelujah!) and I go and take my shower. It’s amazing, it’s needed, its rejuvenating.
But even in this time, I am comforted by her baby babble and can hear her crawling heavily around our apartment. Usually I lay low until I am completely ready, but today was different. I poked my head out from the bathroom to take a peek at my beautiful child. She was playing quietly by herself, chewing on a toy in nothing but a slightly soiled diaper. As she heard my voice, her face lit up. Baby giggles and a ferocious, toothless smile took over her face as she crawled clumsily, quickly in my direction.
It’s the most rewarding part of motherhood, and the most difficult to explain. It’s a rush of oxytocin, a joy that overtakes your spirit and changes the outlook of your whole day.
But nearly instantly, my joy turned to dread as I realized it won’t always be like this.
A day will come when she won’t be so excited to see me. She won’t want to be part of my routine, she won’t care about early morning snuggles. Part of it is so unfathomable to me- all I know is the smiling baby face that reaches out to me to hold and hug her.
Yet, now I can just barely feel the pain of the teenage years. I know from older friends that puberty changes children from cuddle monsters who think their parents are the whole world to independent thinkers who don’t need them. At least, not in the same dependent way.
My deepest wish is for Joy to be a gracious, confident woman who leans heavily on Christ’s example for her life. I wish for her independence and wisdom, I wish for her to grow up and experience a full life.
But..I never expected these moments would feel like this. Even though she’s just 8 months old my heart hurts for the words not even said and the conflict yet to come. I never dreamed of being so addicted to someones smile and giggle and so attached to the affection I take for granted.
They paint motherhood as a blessing, as a fulfillment but what about when it’s over? My baby’s not even walking, and still only tomorrow she’ll be walking down the aisle.
I assume I sound slightly crazy. I mean, why should I be caught up about a stage of life that hasn’t happened yet (and won’t for a few good years?)
Because I felt it, that’s why. Because in a unforeseeable moment I saw my child- older and independent, turn away. Such a contrast to the beaming baby in front of me with her arms reached out!
Now, even in just a glimpse, I can see the hurt my parents feared and struggled to avoid.
But I don’t want to be ruled by emotion. I don’t want my choices about parenting to be about what makes me feel good, what makes me feel needed. Because even though the truth hurts, growing up is what’s best for her.
So I won’t ignore this feeling. I won’t push it down and save it for later. Instead, I’ll let it motivate me. Eventually, she’s going to be independent and self-reliant no matter what, so I might as well make the most of it. I might as well encourage kindness, encourage thoughtfulness. When she thinks independently, may I parent in such a way that teaches her to make smart choices. When we do have conflict, I pray that we will use wisdom in example, showing her to disagree in love. I hope that when she is grown, she doesn’t let differences and opposite opinions sway the way she treats others.
I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid she’ll choose ‘being right’ over understanding. Even if I raised her perfectly, it’s still her choice whether to extend love or withhold grace.
It’s scary, raising a child. But it’s harder, it’s more hurtful investing in something that’s so emotionally tied.
Today, I’ll embrace her sloppy kisses and outstretched arms. But I won’t forget that she’s not always going to be in my arms, that she’s not always going to lean on me for choices and decisions. That some days, it will hurt. But it will only make us stronger.