We’ve had a few firsts over here in Mommyland. O had his first haircut and we got him baptized. He is pretty much running everywhere and is much more aware of the world around him, the actions/reactions of people and things, what things are. I am starting to be careful of what I say. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t about to utter a curse word. But he’s now on the same level as my dog. In addition to not being able to say “walk” out loud, I now cannot say “milk”, “phone” or “I-Pad” out loud without O immediately screeching for those things.
Yes, I said I-Pad. He is obsessed. My one year old can not only unlock the thing, but he can find his apps, correctly “play” the games, and turn the pages. He also knows where we keep it and often toddles over to it and reaches his little hands up and screeches for it. His dad is excited and thinks this means he will be a gamer. I am a bit worried about what it means for a one year old to be so immersed in technology already. But I fear I’m fighting a losing battle. Though I admit that having one on a plane ride with a toddler is GENIUS. They should have I-Pad commercials showing all the little hellions on planes sweet and silent and captivated by their I-Pads.
I often hear other moms say that they miss having a baby and where did their baby go? I understand the sentiment- I’m amazed at how much O can do. But I don’t wish for his babyness back. Partly because I found it really difficult and partly because I am really enjoying this time with him. I tend to be impatient, but I find with O I am actually able to just enjoy the moments. I don’t wish for him to be a baby again, and I don’t wish for him to be bigger. I love watching him just where he is.
We decided to have O baptized out in California. There is a beautiful glass chapel in Palos Verdes called The Wayfarer’s Chapel. It is on a bluff overlooking the ocean and is a simple, but stunning building. It was built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and is a one-room structure. The walls are glass and the trees and foilage surround and are entwined, so that while inside the church, you feel almost as if you are outside. It is a very peaceful and wondrous place. We called and they happily agreed to baptize O (for a small donation). The Wayfarer’s is officially a Swedenborgian church. They don’t baptize into their religion, but into the Christian faith in general. This sounded good to me, so we signed up.
During the ceremony, the pastor said something that I think about all the time. He said that though O was obviously developing his own little personality (obviously because O performed and laughed and flirted with the audience during the entire ceremony), it still wasn’t clear WHO O would be. What his strengths will be, what he will be passionate about, what will come easy for him, what difficulties and hardships he will face, what his life will hold for him.
I watch this sweet little boy who looks at the world as an absolute treasure right now, every nook and cranny and book and doorknob is a marvel and something to twist and turn and explore and laugh at. There is nothing that mars his memory or existence yet. He has not learned he can’t do something yet, he doesn’t know that people can be cruel, that life can be boring, that his parents aren’t perfect, that not everything will always be such a marvel. Someday, and soon, that doorknob will just be a doorknob.
And to be honest, that boy-to-be scares me a little bit. Right now it’s so easy to be his mother, so easy to make his world happy and right, so easy to be the hero. Someday soon, it won’t be so easy to be a mother. I won’t always be able to make everything right. He will learn that life is not always fair. And he will learn that not even his mother can always be a hero and wish away his unhappiness.
There is a small church in downtown that I drive by every morning on my way to work. It has one of those signs with the black letters that can be changed. For more than a year, everyday during my pregnancy, the letters said the same thing:
“I will go before thee and make the crooked path straight.”- Isiah, 45:2.
Everyday I would drive to work, my decaf coffee in my hand, listening to NPR, and I would see those words and smile to myself, knowingly. It was as if the words were speaking to me directly. You are a mother now, they were saying. It is your job to protect and clear the way for your baby. And I felt like I understood the meaning of those words for the first time, actually felt the mother’s instinct to protect. And it felt good.
I watch O and I think about those words. They popped into my head when he began to crawl, and then walk. And I realized I was wrong. My job as his mother is not to make his crooked path straight. My job is to love him and give him the confidence and the skills to navigate that crooked path and navigate it well.
What makes a person strong, what makes a person interesting, is how they walk their crooked path. If his path is always straight and easy, what will he learn? If I do everything for him and clear his path of heartache and struggle, then how will he know what to do when he is inevitably facing those struggles alone?
This is the hard part of being a parent. Letting him fall. Letting him have his heart broken. Letting him learn about forgiveness and strength and doing the right thing. Our instincts are to protect our children from these things. But what kind of adults does that make them?
I think of my first broken heart. I think of mistakes I’ve made, big mistakes. I think of what I learned when I fell down, when I chose the wrong path, when I trusted the wrong person. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. I wouldn’t be a writer if I had never experienced heartbreak. I wouldn’t know the value of telling the truth if I hadn’t learned the hard way how terrible it is to lose someone’s trust. I wouldn’t have empathy for someone who feels left out if I had never felt left out.
Of course, my heart will break the first time my son comes home crying because someone called him a name, or didn’t invite him to a birthday party. And I will want to rip the hair out of some saucy girl that will decide that O isn’t good enough for her. But. I hope I remember that these things are there to teach him, to show him how to grow up, how to treat people, and how to one day be a man.
I hope I have the strength to let O fall, to let him have a heartbreak, to let him find his own crooked path. And all I can do is make sure that he knows that I’m there, right beside him, the whole way. So when he does fall, there will always be someone to pick him up, tell him he’s okay, and encourage him to keep going.