Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hearts

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Elizabeth Stone
When our babies are born we begin to understand just exactly what that quote means.
Holding that helpless, tiny creature for the first time...looking into eyes that can't quite focus, soft pink cheeks, small fingers wrapped around ours...our hearts are lost forever.
We're hopelessly in love.
Toddlers begin to assert their will. They know what they want, and they want it now! Stubborn little feet stomp. Fists are clenched. Lips pout and quiver. They cry and scream when they don't get their way. They're just learning the rules. They still need us to make everything alright. So we pick up the howling mini-monster and wipe away the tears. We hold our child in our arms, and they melt into us. As we rock them, the sobbing stops, they fall asleep, and the little beast turns back into an angel in an instant. Our days are full of ups and downs. We don't care much for the tantrums, but we forgive them. We're enchanted by our little ones...we'd do anything for them.
Teenagers try our patience and test all the limits. They know most of the rules by now, but that doesn't mean they like them. Our kids can be so helpful, so sweet, so delightful! But they're under so much pressure that sometimes they blow! They make mistakes, they lash out, they stomp and pout and scream at us...just as they did years ago. We understand. We don't take it personally. We forgive them. They still look to us to make it all better. So we help them pick up the pieces, help them fix their mistakes and put things back together. We put our arms around our kids...taller than us now. And they melt into our embrace. We wish we could swap places and face the rejections and disappointments for them, but we know they have to do it on their own. They have to learn to stand on their own. We know that pretty soon they'll be adults and our job will be over.
And then we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Because once our children are grown, our hearts will belong to us again. Right? We can step back and watch with pride as that young person becomes whatever it is they were meant to be. And if they fall, they can pick themselves up now. They can wipe their own tears. They can fix their mistakes. They won't need our arms to fall into when they mess up.
Except...
Once in a while, they don't know how to make it all better. They can't find the solution. Things haven't gone the way they planned, and they just don't know what to do. They're too old to kick and scream and throw a fit. Too big for us to hold them in our laps. But they've turned to us again...they want us to make it all ok. Even though they know we really can't fix it now. So we take our babies in our arms. We tell them how much we love them. We listen. We offer advice. We pray for them.
And we hurt for them. Our hearts ache for the pain that they feel.
Because our hearts?
Well, we know by now...they're never going to belong to us again.

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