My baby turned four this summer.
Something happens with the turning of four (in my house at least.) Rationale becomes easier, fits start to dissipate, and in the place of the flailing toddler, there stands a little girl.
As outings and dinners out start to become pleasant and effortless, I find myself lamenting the loss of the babydom in our home and recalling with a sad smile the times I was humiliated at Target by someone's antics, or was so tired my eyes crossed after being up all night with a teething baby.
I'm thankful for many things as I journey into, what seems to be, a completely different season of mothering. But mostly I'm thankful for other mothers who, through the pages of their books, taught me to never fear the trenches.
The trenches refine us. They perfect us. And they are necessary in this eternal endeavor. They are not to be feared, but embraced; and so wholly that the trenches fall away to billowing prairies and we find ourselves having come through the impossible into a connection inseverable.
Fear of accomplishing the impossible (the spoiling of a baby's heart and mind) drive mothers back from their God-given instincts every day. Every day a mother, somewhere, cries as connections are slowly altered.
The fear and trepidation to simply parent from instincts alone has permeated American motherhood. What if she never learns to sleep by herself? What if I nurse him when he cries and he learns all he has to do is cry and he get what he wants? What kind of toddler, young person, adult, am I raising if I give in to all of her needs?
I stand here now (okay, I'm sitting, but you get the idea), eight years after the birth of my oldest daughter, and I can, with a clear conscious, proclaim the above fears to be lies.
The tie that binds us to our babies is that of nurture and response. I'm a failure on many levels (if you've read here long, you know this), but one thing I am thankful for as it all passes away, is that I am (mostly) free from regret. I don't have to worry if I held my babies enough, if I loved them enough, if I gave enough. I gave everything I had and, truth be told, sometimes I still fell short. Not because I had needy babies. But because babies need.
They need to be held. They need to be fed. They need to be nurtured. They need to be rocked and soothed and cherished. They need a mother.
So I encourage any of you today who are reacting. You, tired and fearful mother, who, all day long, move from one emergency to the next. As your child makes you look like a horrible mother inside Wal-Mart and as your parents and friends tell you to stop rocking your baby or she'll die, smile and know that your child will survive it. You will survive it.
And as the babies disappear and leave young children in their place, the twisted truth is that you might actually miss the tantrums and all-nighters. Just a little. Just enough to assure yourself you gave it all you had.
I have to think it's all the giving that connects us so forcefully to our children.
And, as I always say...deep in the well that is mothering, there is Living Water. Give fully, immerse daily, and drink heartily.