when they are small.

Me and Alene: Horney mothers

My sister in law had a baby boy 9 days before I did this winter, and it’s been fun to journey with her through the peaks and valleys of life with a newborn. She lives in Portland, so most of our time “together” is via texts, via nursing time. My phone will beep at three in the morning with a note from Alene, and it’s nice to know I’m not all alone in the dark of early morning, you know what I mean? She is one of my dearest friends, a sister of my heart, and I love raising our sons together. The matching bags under our eyes only bring us closer 🙂

I actually have a few girlfriends currently in the ‘feeding a baby every few hours’ stage of life, and I text all of them when I have a few minutes alone while I nurse Sam. It’s a sweet club to be a part of, to imagine all of these mamas somewhere out in the world with a Boppy pillow and their phones and a glass of water nearby: the same scene played out in a million different places. I love that. Late last night I was texting my “aunt” Maggie, whose little boy was born last week. She’s actually only a few years older than me, because my uncle lucked out and married a beautiful younger woman. So now we’re having babies at the same time and I have a one-week old cousin? Bizarre and funny. I love Maggie. She is one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met, truly. She and my Uncle James had three kids in the last three years, which is insane. And I asked her last night how everything was going, with sick toddlers and a newborn and just the craziness of parenthood. She had lots of reasons to feel overwhelmed, and I know they must be exhausted, but you know what she said to me? With a three year old, a one year old, a brand new baby, and I’m guessing close to zero hours of sleep?
“I want them to stay this way forever. Small and mine.”

I cried when I read that. The words “small and mine” had a surprising effect on my heart. I’ve often wondered at the dichotomy of these first few years of my children’s life, in relation to my experience versus their experience. They won’t remember any of this. They won’t remember quiet walks through our house as I sing them back to sleep. They won’t remember how fast Sam can swaddle them tight, or the way he holds them close in his sleep. Clara has frighteningly sensitive skin, and I use cloth wipes to prevent diaper rashes. She won’t remember me standing at our bathroom sink, rinsing out dirty wipes five or six times a day, every day of the week, willing to do anything to save her from discomfort. These early years are changing everything about me and Sam, about our life and our house and our marriage, and our kids won’t recall any bit of it. Not in the way we imagine memories work, anyways. They won’t remember how we look at them with light in our eyes. But they are soaking up our love and pleasure and guidance in places unseen, deep in their young hearts, quickly forming opinions of themselves. They’ll decide everything about who they are in relation to the world during these forgotten years with us. Are they loved? Are they valuable? Are they useful?

Yes, yes, and yes, my dear ones. I know you won’t remember me nursing you all through the night. But please know that you are loved in a sacred, holy way, at a chapel built in midnight hours.

See, these early years – these small years – aren’t meant for children’s memories. They aren’t meant to be a signpost of devotion, a clearly marked time period that I can point back to when they hate me or hate us and say “Look! Look what I did for you!” No. This time when they are small and mine is meant as a signpost in MY life. A time that I sacrificed sleep, and showers, and food, and time, and self, in order to keep them alive and well. A time when I stopped living for my own sake, and started living for others. A time when God spoke into my life and revealed a side of His heart that I never could have known if I hadn’t become a parent. These small years are memories meant for me and for Sam, to say that we loved. And we loved well. Through dirty diapers and tantrums on the floor and laughter echoing across splashing bathwater, we learned true love. We are changed through loving these small ones, and we are grateful they are ours. 

“When they are small and mine.” Amen, all you wonderful parents. Amen.

 I took these pictures to make thank you cards for our doctors and nurses. They’re not my best work, but I love them anyways. (The pictures, not the kids. Sheesh.)

2 thoughts on “when they are small.

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