The Handprints On My Dishwasher

I used to imagine what my husband and I would be like when we had our first child.

We would be parents who didn’t act like “parents.” We would be COOL PARENTS.

We wouldn’t let our kid become the center of our universe. 

Our house wouldn’t be taken over with blocks and trains and dolls. We would relegate all of that “stuff” to a small, designated area. I would not be that parent who talks about their kid incessantly, or who’s social media is a gigantic, glaring spotlight on their kid, or who arranges their free time around their child’s schedule and activities.

Well.

The time has come and I’ve had to eat all of those words. Every. Last. Crumb. 
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both hands.

My 13 month old has just started walking. Parents, you know how it happens. Those first unsure, wobbly steps VERY QUICKLY turn into a tiny human toddling confidently all over the house. I think it only took Aven between one to two weeks to get really good at it. She beams with pride and even applauds herself over this new milestone. It’s adorable. But in the beginning when she was first learning, she would reach up and grab one of my hands. Then she would stand there paralyzed, reeeacching up until she could grab hold of my other hand – only then would she feel brave and secure enough to lift her foot and make a move. It took both hands. I had to be all there.

This really made me think about how often I parent with one hand.

In a literal sense, it’s totally a survival skill for parents, especially in the beginning when you’re holding your child in one arm while functioning with the other. It’s kind of astounding what you can accomplish with one less limb out of necessity. But more importantly, how many times do I parent with one hand, in an absentminded or passive way? Giving my daughter only part of me? I know for a fact that 100% of Aven’s mama does not always show up. Often purely out of distraction with other things. Or sheer exhaustion from LIFE RAISING A BABY. (HOW do people have more than one child?? I need a nap just thinking about it.)

Of course, we can’t be engaged 100% of the time. I know this. Things have to get done, there’s work to do, and it sure would be nice if my floor were actually visible through the sea of toys. That’s what I tell myself. And that’s valid, a lot of the time. But showing my love has to be intentional, always. That’s where the divide between the talk and the walk appears. And for our little ones, LOVE is often spelled out with our hands. We have to SHOW UP. We have to put down our technology, our lengthy to do lists, our multitasking, our busyness, our expectations of motherhood, and our selfish tendencies so we can make ourselves fully available to our babies. Because you know what?

Sometimes both hands are required.

To hold their tiny little faces with two hands when you kiss them……Or for a tight hug with both arms…..To cheer and clap for their big and small accomplishments….So you can scoop them up close and tell them how big you love them…..For playing patty cake….To tickle them until their sides hurt from giggling….So you can splash and make a colossal mess during bathtime….Or for a dance session in the kitchen while the bottle is warming up.

So many opportunities for significant displays of love in the simple and mundane. But you’re gonna have to use both hands.

Colossians 3:12 & 14 says to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And over all these, put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”

That’s the mom I want to be.

Parents – PUT ON LOVE.
Look with both eyes, fully focused on little faces. Listen to little voices with two ears instead of one. Use both hands. Use your whole self and your whole heart, because YOU make them brave. YOU teach them extravagant love. By simply being YOU.

perspective.

I’m truly in love with being a mom, and it’s probably the thing I’m most proud of. But as Brandon and I approached the time when we wanted to expand our family, there was some hesitation on my part. Maybe because I’ve grown up around lots of babies and kids so I was pretty aware of their life-altering nature (that does not mean I was prepared for one of my own, until it actually happened). My husband, on the other hand, was an only child for the first eighteenish years of his life, so he falls more in the “blissfully unaware” category.

Looking back, I wonder, what was I afraid of?

I would often wonder how different my life would be after having a baby. I would never get alone time anymore, time to relax, be able to sleep in, time to escape into a good book, and just plain old free time. Wow. Did you catch all that? All of the “me” that overwhelmed those thoughts? Unbeknownst to me, a little 9 lb package was on her way to reset that mindset. A complete overhaul, you could call it. 

Basically, having a baby was a kick in the pants that I needed.


When Aven was only ten days old, I got sick with an infection related to her birth and all that comes with that. My mom was staying at our house to help with the baby, especially during the nights so I could rest between feedings. The second morning I was sick my mom quietly woke me up and let me know it was time for the next feeding. Not going to water this down – I actually said “no. I can’t.”  I was still so drained physically from giving birth and then on top of that, fever/chills/generally feeling like crap…I couldn’t imagine finding the energy to provide nourishment for my daughter. But here’s the thing – I was her only source of sustenance. I had not started pumping any breastmilk. We had no formula. We definitely had not attempted trying a bottle yet. After about five minutes of a pep talk to get motivated to get out of the bed, I did. I wasn’t feeling it. But it was required of me. I like to think of this as one of many “welcome to motherhood” moments. She needed me. In a completely practical, physical, life-sustaining kind of way. How I felt was irrelevant. 

Selflessness and parenting – they kind of go together. It’s an ongoing lesson (and a struggle) to be last rather than first, especially in our self-centered culture. But as a believer it’s something God has called me to – to serve. (And this applies whether I’m a mom or not. It applies to every facet of my life.) 

Selflessness shows up even in the small things. Like having a good attitude in the morning despite how the night before went. It’s a testament to the power your child has over your heart – they may keep you up all night long but when you wake up that next morning (and peel yourself out of the bed and the exhaustion) only to see them smiling sweetly back at you, what do you do? You smile back. Every time. You can’t even help it. 

Mornings have not historically been my favorite part of the day. But now? As tired as I always am, (even when she sleeps all night – I’m still tired), I get to wake up to the sweetest face on the planet, and I get to spend the first moments of my day with the happiest little person you can imagine. Now it’s hands-down my favorite part of the day. There are lots of smiles and snuggles and sweetness. Brandon and I even sometimes fight over who gets to wake her up!
Thinking about it now, I realize there really is no competition between sleeping in versus waking up to a smiley, blue-eyed, babbling little girl child in footie pajamas….with serious bed head. She makes my days brighter. 

Every stinking morning.

So, back to those thoughts I had pre-baby on life post-baby. 
Almost all of my concerns centered around time, and now ask me who I spend all my time with?
My daughter.

Ask me who I want to spend all my time with?
My daughter.

The irony is not lost on me.

This isn’t to say I never crave time to myself anymore (oh, I do! I have introverted tendencies and alone time feels like a necessity to my sanity), but it’s a much more balanced perspective now. Like for instance, showering without a little person staring at me from the other side of the glass door is golden. Blow-drying my hair without having to play peek-a-boo at the same time is much more efficient, although I’ll admit, less fun. Sitting down with a book and getting through a couple chapters before I crash to sleep for the night is totally blissful. Running errands is seamless and eerily quick when I don’t have a 20-ish pound weight attached at my hip.

Ultimately, I believe my fear came from imagining big pieces of the puzzle called my life disappearing completely. How would my friendships and my marriage change? Would I be able to continue to work? I didn’t know exactly what my new life would look like, and that’s a little scary. All of the impending blessings of a child were sometimes clouded by my fears. I didn’t know if I would be a good mom or know how to raise a daughter. 

But now, when I look at my life’s puzzle? I see so many new and cherished pieces locked into place, right alongside all of the old pieces. My puzzle has been changed forever – it will never be the same – it’s completely new. 


And more beautiful than ever.