Clara and I drove a couple towns east this weekend to spend two nights with Sam. If it had been to see anyone else, we definitely would NOT have left home. My car started acting up a few days before our trip, and I didn’t feel comfortable driving it that many miles. But then my amazing sister offered her car, and let me take it for the whole weekend. (More on that later.)
Clara is sick with a fever and cough, too, and I would’ve preferred to keep her home and away from other germs. But whenever I start to doubt whether or not these weekend trips to see Sam are worth the effort, I think about how I feel leaving Clara for the day for school and play rehearsal. Then I multiply that by 8 whole days, and suddenly the work of getting out of town with my daughter doesn’t seem like such a burden after all. Sam hates being away, and every time he gets back home, he comments again and again at how much Clara changed while he was gone. And every other Monday, on the night before he leaves again, I stand silently at the door of the nursery and listen to him whisper his goodbyes as he rocks her to sleep.
So, if we can go- we go.
I actually wondered if Sam would even want us to come visit this weekend. Clara has been a disaster since she picked up this cough, crying, out of sorts, not wanting anyone except me. But when I mentioned that to Samuel, he said, “Bring it on!” I told him that he might be one of the only dads in the world who would WANT their wife to bring a sick and cranky baby to share his hotel room for the weekend, and he scoffed. “I always want you guys here. I don’t care if it’s a great time, I just want to be together.”
(He does laundry and he likes sick babies? I think I just got pregnant again.)
While we laid in bed together last night, the hotel room darkened and all three of us in our pajamas, the fresh smell of our clean hair and skin filling the room after our warm showers, I marveled at Clara’s hands. One of them gripped the front of Sam’s shirt, and the other reached back to press against my face. She fell asleep in that position, her petite fingers and sleepy body curling around the warmth and security of her parents. After a long few weeks of struggling to get in a rhythm with school and the play and babysitters and a husband who is gone half the month, and feeling like I fail and fail and fail; this moment brought healing.
I did not know that parenthood would be like this. I did not know the pressure that comes with raising a person, the absolute fear and disappointment that lurk behind every decision and mistake and possible situation with my child. I want what is best for her. I want to CHOOSE what is best, I want to be a mother who loves like Jesus, I want to be a wife who is a fair and thankful partner, I want to be the best version of myself for these people who fill my life. But when I am not- when I am not, and this is most often- I have to trust that it is these moments that will press in most firmly to Clara’s heart. These quiet, laying on top of the quilt, falling asleep in the safe valley of her parents’ arms moments.
She will not remember this night. She will not remember most of these days and nights and early years, and yet it is in these foggy subconcious twinklings of childhood that God is whispering into her heart, “You are loved. You are safe. You are wanted.” We are teaching those things to her. Yes, we are making mistakes. We don’t know what we’re doing. But that is not what she will know about us, and that is not what she will think of herself. She will know that when she is sick and not quite herself, she is still wanted. She will know, somewhere deep down in her soul, the comfort that came from our acceptance and adoration as we kissed the soft dimples on her knuckles as she drifted to sleep. She won’t remember the mistakes, and she won’t even begin to understand the pain of parenthood and our aching desire to give her our very best. (Because no one understands that until they are a parent. And thank you, mom and dad. Have I said that lately?)
No, she won’t remember much from these first few years. But I know in my bones that these wisps of tenderness and close shelter from our hands will press into her skin, imprint a legacy of love and connection that cannot be shaken, and that is the greatest inheritance we can offer. Not perfection. Not every right answer. Just love.
So mistakes be damned, I will keep on. I will sift through the muck of life for these press-in moments and cherish them up in my heart, all the while praying the same for my daughter and my son. May they know the love of God first through the love of their parents, and may we be an inkling of the open arms that their Heavenly Father always, always extends. He understands the breathless CRAZY LOVE of parenthood, and surprise, surprise: He does it even better.