August 29, 2015
There’s something about babies. It’s not just their own cuteness–their soft skin and nice smell and the way they look so squeezable in jammies. Babies do something to the people around them. They make stress lines melt away from preoccupied faces, they put a ceasefire on arguments, they elicit a smile from someone who’s down. They draw a certain tenderness out of wound-up, rough-around-the-edges, stand-offish little girls.
I guess that last one may be a little unique to us. To reiterate a fact that most everyone reading this already knows: We did NOT intend to have a baby when we made the decision to foster. Because having a baby while fostering would be crazy, right? We were two and a half months into this thing when I found out I was pregnant, and it was so ridiculous that I would have laughed if I’d been able to through the tears of horror. But babies are exciting, and Todd was the best and acted so happy, so of course the tears of horror quickly turned to joy. And now that Mr. Smiles has arrived, well, you know all the things people say about babies–things that sound like platitudes but aren’t because every parent knows how true they are. He’s amazing, adorable, fantastic, wonderful. His smile lights up the room, his presence lights up our lives. Now that he’s here, the thought of not having him seems even crazier than the thought of having him once did.
All the same, I’ve often wondered what God’s private little joke was in introducing Mr. Smiles to our lives at the time that He did. I wondered how He would use this baby, what purposes He would accomplish through his existence. Obviously I still don’t know the final answers to those questions. Maybe Mr. Smiles will grow up to change the world, maybe he’ll be a deadbeat. Whatever he becomes, there’s one very specific purpose he’s serving now, and that is the opening up of our girl’s heart.
She has a complicated relationship with Maverick, as I’ve written about. And she has a volatile relationship with Jack-Jack, as I’ve also written about. But her relationship with Mr. Smiles is untainted. She loves him. She doesn’t resent him for being younger, and she doesn’t feel the need to parent him for me. She has nothing to prove to him, and feels no sense of being owed something by him. She can’t manipulate him, she can’t get anything from him, she can’t fight with him. And so she loves him. She thinks he’s cute, she wants him to be safe, she cherishes his smiles, she loves to make him laugh. She watched my belly swell with his growth, she looked at pieces of fruit that matched his size in utero, she heard us talk about his heart, his ears, his fingernails. She saw my weariness and mood swings and food aversions. She joined us in our joyful expectation. She met him as a tiny little bundle, wrapped up in blankets, fresh from the hospital. For possibly the first time in her life, she experienced unconditional love.
This relationship fills me with happiness and sadness. This little baby has been a gift to her. It is a gift for her to experience the innocence and beauty of love that is unselfish and pure. But I watch her smiling at him, of all children in our home the one she most considers her brother, and I don’t think she really realizes it won’t last. His smiles, his sweet softness, the way he reaches for her face–they’ll just be memories for her when she leaves our home.
And he won’t remember her.
She has been as much a part of his life thus far as anyone else in our family. This is one thing that my boys don’t have over her, because she experienced the duration of my pregnancy right along with them. All the noise and chatter that Mr. Smiles could hear in the womb, all the emotions that he picked up from me as he developed–they were coming as much from her as from my other kids. But he will have no memory of her. Will she remember him? Surely she will, but I’m not sure. My childhood was happy and healthy, yet there is still so much that I’ve forgotten. She won’t forget the several months (or a year? Who knows?) that she spent with this baby, will she?
Whether she remembers his face and the details of his person, that doesn’t matter so much. What I hope she remembers, what I hope sticks with her forever, is the memory of unconditional love. I want her to always remember how she could look at him with no expectations, and how she could be looked at by him with acceptance and trust. I want her to remember the feel of him in her arms, the wholesomeness of his presence, how he made her better without even knowing it. I want her to try to find that, at some level, in other relationships. To be better because of who she’s with. To love others with acceptance and trust, with no expectations, no desire to boss, to bully, to manipulate. She won’t find that in some of the relationships closest to her. My prayer is that God’s private little joke wasn’t a joke at all. I hope He was saying “Look, she needs this, and you get an amazing child out of the deal. I’m going to show her My love through this little package of a person. I’m going to teach her about My love in a way that words and stories and lessons can’t do. I’m going to show her My face through the face of your baby. And I’m going to imprint My love on her heart through the love she feels for him.”
Is she getting that message? I don’t know. But there’s no way this hasn’t been good for her, in one way or another, and I’m humbled by how God has used me, broken vessel that I am, to bring a child into the world, a child who would bless our girl beyond what I was capable of.