There’s this favorite picture I once snapped of Cancan, taken when he was just a couple months old: he lay still in his bouncy seat, nestled in Dreamland, oblivious to the world around him. As if possessed by Baby Exorcist dormant inside his 10-pound body, after a few minutes his fingers slowly starting raising off the blanket, until they rested mid-air for the next 15, 20 minutes. I called him my little Ray Charles, as I waited for him to pound down a delicious G7 chord, fingers tickling the ivories like the prodigy he’d surely be someday.
But his hands stayed put, held loosely in that position until, with a jolt, they pounced and rested upon his blanket again.
And that’s when I realize: Today is my Ray Charles of a finger-resting day.
I stare at the picture again, and beyond the obvious musings ofwhere the last two years have gone, I mirror his stance. I think about writing deadlines, both self-imposed and accepted, and I take a deep breath. I close my eyes, giving tired body the freedom to rest, even if it’s just for a few minutes in the Daly City Public Library. [I wouldn’t be the first to nap here, that’s for certain.] My brain curses the current insomnia pulsing through mind and body come 10 pm, because growing a baby is hard, and shouldn’t the gods of pregnancy at least give expectant mamas the hibernating gift of rest before newborn-sleeplessness hits? But then I remember Baby’s fingers again, appendages posed in a Chill Out! sort of way.
And so I do.
Imake the Chill Out! directive my own, adding a little Jesus to the mix, as I let heaps of grace strain through tired, outstretched hands. I release the stress. I let go of the pain. I unclench tightened fists, their controlling grasp an indication of everything I try so hard to make right, to ensure goes My Way. The words trail out of me – perhaps it’s a prayer, or maybe just a meditation, though it could be a combination of both: I release, I let go, I unclench. Because I can’t hold this anymore.I think of hurting around the world, both near and far. I think of the young girls captured in Nigeria – bring them back, bring them back – just as I think of my short-tempered anger, its fuse ready to light at a moment’s notice. I think of marriages breaking up, and of the involved hearts that hurt; I remember sick friends and lonely friends and overwhelmed friends, and as my fingers relax, I do the best I can and I point these whispers heavenward.
Because for now, for today, for the here and now, releasing and letting go and unclenching is all I can do – but it’s enough.
So friends, if you need close your eyes and strike a Ray Charles-like pose, I support you. If you need to take deep breaths in and out and fall asleep in your local library, no judgment here. But in the midst of whatever’s going on in your little world, might you take a minute to release, to let go and to unclench.
In this with you,
What about you? How and where do you need a little Ray Charles pose in your life? What’s one way you can mirror Cancan’s actions and seek clarity?
One of the handiest parts of mama-hood involves trading childcare; even if it’s just once a week, that’s three more hours I have to write, or be reminded that I am an adult who has the ability to speak in sentences longer than four syllables. [See also: Baby, no no; Car? Car? Car? Car?; Say bye-bye!] Of course, there then exists the realization that “swap” is a two-way street, which takes us to this past Tuesday where the almost 17-month olds, Cancan and Baby Ruth, found themselves at play in our living room.
The two littles have been playing nicely in the living room for an hour or so. The Parental Unit is giving herself kudos for her most excellent child-rearing skills, when she decides to give them each a snack-time mini-carrot muffin treat. The following ensues….
CanCan: Wabada! Baby Ruth, take my muffin! No, really, I don’t want it – let me forcefully cram it into your mouth! Now, now!
BabyRuth: Ga! Ga!I don’t want your stinking muffin! Get away! You’re mean! Shoo!
CC: Haaaaaaaaaw!Baby Ruth, I insist. Eat my muffin. Here, I’ll help you: let me shove it down your throat.
Tears well in Baby Ruth’s eyes, for she is not about to eat Cancan’s muffin. She begins to cry; at this point the Parental Unit decides to intervene, using such words as “Gentle, gentle” (and other four-syllable sentences), but to no avail. Baby Ruth cries louder. And louder. The Parental Unit decides that she must need comforting, so she picks her up and takes her to the couch.
BR: [Between hiccuping tears] Uh, uh, uh!I just wanted to eat MY muffin …and, and… he wouldn’t let me. He made me eat HIS muffin. He stinks!
The Parental Unit doesn’t exactly have the most emotionally sensitive of a child, so she’s not sure what to do. She must want comfort, the Parental Unit decides, so she rubs her hair, she rocks her slightly, she whispers sweet toddler-nothings into her ear. Meanwhile, Cancan is ready for friendship again, so he toddles over to the couch.
CC: Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Want to play with my car? Want to catch the ball? Want to eat the gravel in the backyard with me? Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!
BR: Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!Oh-no-he-di’nt! You did NOT just enter my space. This is a Ruth-only zone, man! Get away from me, booger-head!
CC: Garbalarbadarb. It’s okay, Baby Ruth. We’re besties. Here, let me pat your legs violently and reassure you of our relationship.
BR: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! You’re not picking up what I’m putting down, buddy. I do not want you in my space, and I certainly don’t want your toilet-water hands touching my legs!
The Parental Unit continues to try and soothe Baby Ruth, now cradling the 17-month old in a newborn rocking position. This is a silly idea on her part. The Parental Unit whispers, “Shhhhh, shhhhh,” to Baby Ruth in order to produce a calm environment, while Cancan continues to throw punches and reassure her of their friendship. Chaos ensues.
CC: [Grunt, grunt]I know! I’ll crawl up on the couch, and sit on the other side of my mama; that way, we can really be friends.
BR: AH! GA BA BA WAHHHHHH!!! You are not hearing me! I don’t want to see you! Your proximity makes me ill!
The Parental Unit continues to rock and soothe, rock and soothe, with one arm whilst trying to keep her son away with the other. “Uh-uh, no no,” she whispers, in between hushes; Cancan looks at Baby Ruth, he looks at his mama, and he reacts the only way he knows how: he begins to fake-cry violently.
CC: Wah! Wah! Wah! Look Baby Ruth, I am crying sympathy tears for you. Faux cry, faux cry! I’m an empathetic little dude, I swear! Look: I can even match your pain and cry harder. Wahhhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh!
BR: [Hiccup, hiccup, hiccup.] Is this really happening right now? Are you MOCKING me? The nerve! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
The Parental Unit is besides herself, so she copes the only way she knows how in a high-stress situation: she laughs. The littles continue to wail for the next five minutes. She texts Baby Ruth’s mama to see if she can give her a bottle of milk: a reply “yes” comes in. Handing Baby Ruth a bottle, she cannot get up from the couch now, for she cannot leave the littles alone in a room to fend for themselves. 12 more minutes go by. Then she realizes: maybe Baby Ruth needs her diaper changed!
BR: Uh n mama n baga babaaba. Wahhhhhhh! Who is this lady? Where is she taking me now? And why does that kid want to follow me everywhere I go? Can’t a girl get any privacy anymore? Wahhhhhh!!!
CC: Ca ca ca ca ca! Whelp, I’m done crying, but what? We’re going upstairs? I love the stairs! Let’s play! Mama, I can beat you, watch! [Cancan hustles up the stairs, eager for his room.]
The Parental Unit attempts to change Baby Ruth’s diaper.
BR: WAHHHHHHHHHH!!! That’s not what I’ve been crying about! I don’t care about my diaper! You are not my favorite person right now, lady! Where’s my mama? Ma ma ma ma? [She hiccups and gulps for air.] WAHHHHH!!!!
CC: Bagiwawagigigigigig. And this, Baby Ruth, is my throne. This is where all the magic happens. These are my books. This is my ball. This is my bear. Welcome, welcome.
The Parental Unit places a wailing Baby Ruth on the floor; she should probably call the other parental units by now. Consolation is nowhere to be found.
BR: Ga? Ga. Gaaaaaa. [One last hiccup.] Ga. Well, why didn’t you take me up here in the first place? I love oversized stuffed animals that I can slam myself into and hug, over and over again. And books?! Gimme, gimme! My favorite! I am happy! I am in love! I am happy Baby Ruth baby!
Baby Ruth slams herself into the giant Costco bear, comfort gained with each impulsive hug. Cancan, Baby Ruth and the Parental Unit sit on the floor, reading books for the next 45 minutes. And all is calm, all is bright with the world.
And the moral of the story is: Keep Calm and Read Your Book. And Slam Your Body Into an Oversized Bear Whenever Humanly Possible If You Feel Sad. And…
What about you? What’s the best conversation – imagined or not – you’ve heard between children lately? And, more importantly, when was the last time you therapeutically slammed your body into a giant, oversized bear?
Cancan and I made it to the gym this morning, which is always a minor miracle in and of itself. I dropped him off at childcare, had a lovely, sweat-filled hour to myself, and was briskly pulled aside upon pick-up.
“Um, ma’am, do you know what your son kept saying all morning?”
Uh oh, the Little Mimicker strikes again.
“He kept saying,” and she pauses, her voice now a whisper as she looks around the room, “‘Aw Shi, Aw Shi, Aw Shi,’…” She lets her sentence trail off and looks at me expectantly, quizzically.
I tried to explain to her that his favorite book is The Runaway Bunny, and at the end of the story, the bunny reluctantly admits defeat to the Mother Bunny, saying, “Aw shucks, I might as well just stay where I am and be your little bunny” – except that there’s not technically an “aw” in front of “shucks,” and apparently Mama Cara-Bunny thought it’d more naturally flow to add a mildly disappointing interjection. Because, I’m really not a cusser – okay, well not most of the time – so even though his “shi” sounds like “s-h-i-t” – and I proceed to spelled it out, since we were most obviously in the company of Littles – really it’s just because he doesn’t have his “uh” sound down yet.
She wasn’t buying it.
Then we got home, and nap time eventually commenced, and what book did Cancan want to read?
“Aw Shi! Aw Shi! Aw Shi!”
Not only is Aw Shi (…ahem)apparently now the name of the book, but it’s also the first word of every page.
Oh, Brilliant Buddy.
Regardless, I’ve been hit by the power of words this past week; as a writer, every time my fingers hit the keys, the choicest of words are selected. You don’t even know the love affair I have with the thesaurus on a daily basis. As a speaker, I’ll – quite literally – spend hours in study and writing and eventual practice, hearing the words and phrases I’ve written now set to speech. And this all for a finished product that isn’t generally more than 20 or 30 minutes long. Certainly now that I’m a mama, with a child who’s burgeoning in language development, I’m more aware than ever of the power of speech.
Even though I’d like to take my Rod of Blame and poke the delinquent rodent in his little bunny-buns, I’ll instead take ownership of my mouth.
Because our words – every single one of us, from the smallest of smalls to the biggest and most impressive of influencers – have the power to persuade and compel and effect, both positively and negatively. If I still donned the hat of English teacher, I’d ask my students why the choice words of Emily Dickinson pierced their hearts, or how it was that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words so wildly became the voice of the 20’s. If, then in and with my Young Life days, I found myself sitting with a group of leaders – a group of folks committed to reaching kids for Christ – we’d probably talk about the core of human longing, that we all simply want to be known and understood. So what can we, as leaders, do to show kids that we are for them? We can ask them a million questions, because we want to know them, because we want to get them, and in doing so, we are giving them a voice. We are showing them that their words matter deeply, that they matter deeply.
And really, I wish I had it down. But I don’t, not at all.
I can still so easily be a Reactor instead of a Responder, with my mouth is the first to fly off the handle. I don’t always think before I speak, and whether warranted or not, there are people I’ve end up constantly in apology-mode to and with. And then of course there’s that tricky thing called humor: I think I’m being funny – but, Friendlies, bold statement a comin’ here – not everyone thinks I’m the funniest kid ever. My sarcasm ends up being scar-casm, and, once again, I’m reminded to love deeply and respond graciously and maybe, just maybe, mimic my words just a little bit more to the Brave Beloved next time.
So I’m still figuring it out, as we all are, I suppose. And that too is okay.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to help Little Man with his “uh” sounds. Until next time, Aw Shi!
What about you? How have your words been used powerfully, both positively and negatively? And more importantly, what’s the funniest mimic you ever heard a little one say?
We’ll be nodding our heads and closing our eyes and singing our souls to this little slice of musical heaven tonite…
And we’ll be eating a plate or two of this, because it’s kind of our favorite date night food…
And while we’ll probably tell a story or two about how he’s a total Food Moaner when he eats now, and how he does a victory lap around his crib whenever he wakes up – this little bugger won’t be with us…
Because we’re grateful that these people – the lovely, beautiful, messy, imperfect Church People – say You need a date night, and they force us to let them take him for the evening.
And really, it’s how we all should be acting towards each other anyway.
What about you? How is your soul being fed with little, lovely acts of kindness? But more importantly, are you a Food Moaner?
Every once in awhile I get mushy and mama-y and need to remember these times, this present-tense adventure with the Little Bugger – so, for today, a Letter To My Mine. And I know, it’s so, so mama-bloggeresque, which makes me slightly cringe as a writer, but it’s the truth – my truth – today. Enjoy.
You are lovable and huggable, never pausing for a moment’s rest. You are smart and you are daring and you are courageous; you give me a new appreciation for the phrase “All Boy.” I get it. I understand its full meaning now, in a way I never did before.
The world is your jungle gym, quite literally, upon which you flounce your little body and climb to the highest of heights, looking back not for my help, but for my approval. And Baby, I approve. I cheer you on. I see you and I believe in you and, like you, I wish I too could flail my body without consequence toward the massive pile of blankets and sleeping bags and camping pads propped up against giant Bear-Bear in the corner of your room. Life is simply one big adventure for you, and I acknowledge now that this will likely end in a visit to the Emergency Room before the age of five. And when that happens, I’ll cry along with you and I’ll hold you if you’ll let me, but – just warning you – I’ll probably close my eyes if there’s a needle or blood or puking, no offense.
For Cancan, you are one independent, spirited tiny human. You won’t let us feed you anymore, preferring to spoon-feed your face and your shirt and your hair and a little bit of your mouth your favorite applesauce-yogurt-peanut butter mixture. You loathe the process of being strapped into your carseat and stroller now, because it means that you don’t get to walk and run and toddle freely. And you’re even attempting to dress yourself, mimicking the way Mama and Dada put your shoes and socks on, hoping to mirror the same actions. You are a brilliant being, you are.
And those words – ugh, you little talking fool. You call us by name, and you call your loafers “sh!” and you call every person you meet Baby. Hello cute little old church lady – Baby. Hello Mr. Illegal Pharmaceutical Sales Representative on the corner of Ashton and Holloway – Baby. Hello San Francisco State college kid skating down the street, late to class – Baby. And in a way, I think you’re right: for at one time or another, they too were babies, they too (one can hope) had their mamas who stared at them with wonder and delight, changed by their very existence.
For that’s who you are: you are an existence changer. And for that, I’m most grateful, and I’ll continue to throw the mush out there if it means realizing how you’ve changed me for the better, for the always. Because Baby, there’s no place I’d rather be than learning and adventuring and being with you in this life.
Now come and give Mama loves. Please?
Who’s changed you? What letter do you need to write to your Mine today? And seriously, how cute is my kid?
It happened just a few days ago, I swear: I woke up and my baby, my mine, had officially become a Little Man.
No longer is he this…
but he’s this:
In the blink of an eye – in 100-400 milliseconds, according to Google – he’s begun toddling and waddling around the house, my very own tipsy little sailor swaying side to side, step by step. His pudgy baby cheeks have been replaced by thinner and more defined cheekbones, Little Caramel emulating more recognizable traits of his daddy’s racial heritage.
Be still my heart.
His hands are sticky all the time, and from what, I’m really not quite sure (although I’d venture a guess that it has something to do with his profound fascination of garbage cans, toilet bowls, toilet seats and the diaper pail, in general). His feet are always, ever dirty, which obviously has nothing to do with the state of our hardwood floors, and his poop has long since carried with it the faint newborn scent of buttery popcorn – for Lord, he stinketh.
He’s dropping his morning nap – at least, according to the sleeping adventures (or lack thereof) of the last week or so – and this dynamic, far-from-linear child is climbing up on couches while flinging himself fearlessly toward the ground just seconds later. He’s a skydiver in training, and I’m just hoping he remembers to pull, or at least reach for, the safety cord.
He’s squawking and grunting and speaking new syllables every day, tongue darting in and out of his mouth like an 11-year-old tween practicing the art of kissing on her pillow. He’s rounding the dining room table, one time, two times, three times more, a fast-talking Clint Eastwood, exaggerated waddle of a cowboy-swagger his signature stride in the 11th lap that morning.
As a mama, as a parent, I heave a big sigh and I smile a big smile. I pick him up and I squeeze him tightly, and I whisper, Mine, Mine, as I kiss him over and over again.I lean into the moment, I embrace the tension, I marvel in the miracle of the everyday. I let myself wear my sappy hat for a few minutes if need be, because I’m a mama, and oozy, drippy sapis part and parcel of the outfit I sport.
And then when it’s hard – because it’s tiresome and thankless and monotonous, a lot – I put on my Big Girl Panties. When Cancan is having a Sleepless in San Francisco week [see: the past week and a half], I give myself a pat on the back and I whisper sweet nothings to myself because, Lovely, This Too Shall Pass. I make the HBH hug me and hold me for a couple of extra seconds each evening, and then over margaritas with a girlfriend, we clink glasses, and with sparkly, teary, knowing eyes, say to each other, You got this, you got this. I pray to the One who gives me strength, because sometimes when it’s really, really hard, I don’t know how to keep going on my own (and quite frankly, it’s pretty freeing to admit this truth).
And before I know it, a new day is dawning, a minor resurrection of sorts and in mercy and in grace, I’m given a whole new chance.
So I utter my help-thanks-wow’s*: thank you, God,for this little miracle-man, for the past and the present and the future. Thank you for the beautiful, messy, lovely here and now, and for my waddley, toddley miniature Clint Eastwood of a son.
Thank you for my mine.
What about you? What do you say help-thanks-wow for today?
We found ourselves piled on the couch again last night.
It’s become a before-bedtime ritual for the Little Man, and I think for Mama and Daddy as well. The clock strikes 6:52, and Baby starts to rub his eyes, so we push our dinner plates to the side, popping salted lime chunks of avocado in our mouths in a to-go effort. We let the taco dishes be, because, well, there will always be more dishes for washing, but there won’t always be an eager mine before us.
I take one end of the couch, my legs like bowling bumpers hanging over the edge; hoisting Cancan over his lap, the HBH takes the other end, our feet kissing in the middle. And then we just let Baby choose his own adventure.
He’s like this hyper-energetic, miniature version of a WWF wrestler, racing on all fours from one end of the couch to the other, and then standing up all-wobbling legged, rocking and walking and grinning that slaying smile, denting the cushions. He sees the sunny Palermo and Capri pictures hanging beyond the cushions, just within reach, and he lunges for them.
Of course he lunges for the Cost Plus World Market beauties.
And, of course, I let out this elongated “…no-o-oooooooo, Cancan,” because Mama and Daddy are still figuring out what it means to set boundaries and discipline a 13-month old.
I try to put on my stern face, for just 2.5 seconds, catching his eyes, letting him know that I’m serious, I mean business – but it’s no use. His cuteness overwhelms me, and he knows that he’s captured my heart, so he joins in the rousing chorus of “…no-o-oooooooo” by moving his head horizontally from side to side, smile growing with each shake.
I’m slain. I’m toast. I’m a crispy egg fried on the sidewalk in 100 degree temperatures.
But slowly, slowly, he moves his hands from the print, reaching toward me. And then, his professional wrestler-self back in the arena, he dive-bombs towards me, laughing the most perfect, incandescent mini-man giggle you’ve ever heard.
We are all now dying. We’re soaking up the perfection of this moment, and we’re entering into its glory, to the little miracle of life that our son is.
And then we’re realizing that we’re hopeless – absolutely hopeless – when it comes to setting boundaries and disciplining and “not letting the couch be a play arena,” because he keeps going back to the Palermo picture, hands reaching upward, waiting for my “…no-o-oooooooo” before lunging head-first again.
And again and again and again.
I guess that’s what being a parent is: it’s about entering into the moment, and laughing and giggling in marveling wonder, while rendering your heart hopeless to this little creature that is yours.
This little mine.
Thanks be to God.
What about you? How have you entered into that perfection-filled moment? How has your heart been captured?