Friday, February 17, 2012

how long?

anastasia is eleven months old today. it's hard to imagine that she has lived almost a year already. but then i think about how much she knows, what a little person she is turning into, and i realize she could hardly be less than eleven big months old. it is pure joy--almost--to get to know that little person: spunky and opinionated and charming and coy and comical and busy-bodied and smiley and snuggly and so much more. almost pure joy, except for that one little part that's pure heartbreak.

as i nursed her to sleep yesterday, i met the heartbreak for the first time. she was in that drowsy place, that cozy, full-bellied-but-not-yet-all-the-way-asleep place, that ready-for-the-pacifier-and-tucking-in place. so i made the pacifier swap--success--and snuggled her for just one more minute, wrapped in her blankie, before i stood up to put her in bed. and she looked up at me with those about-to-be-a-whole-person eyes, and she gently reached out from under her blankie to touch my face. and in her drowsy eyes, i saw sadness. not baby sadness, the kind that results from a diaper change or being strapped in the car seat or being left behind by luke as he runs outside to play. not hungry sadness or too-cold-after-the-bath sadness or banged forehead sadness. this was a deep and thoughtful and questioning sadness, glimpsed there in the eyes of my almost-toddler who is much too young for that sort of look.

of course, as she reached up to touch my cheek, i doubt if she was really that kind of sad. she was drowsy and snuggly and thinking something between nursing and dreaming, for sure. but what i saw in her eyes, really, was the potential for sadness, the reality that, before i know it, she will know that kind of sad. and it shattered my heart. because, in that moment, i felt more desperate than i ever have for her to stay a baby, to keep her from knowing that kind of sad ever. and simultaneously i knew that she would know it, soon, sooner than i can get my head around. and there's nothing i can do.

it is a mama's biggest heartbreak, i think, or at least this mama's: that we cannot protect our children from pain forever. not broken arm pain or fell-off-the-scooter pain or ear infection pain; certainly, we can't protect them from that, either, and that's hard. but broken heart pain, broken world pain--that's the pain no mama wants her child to ever know. i would give anything never to have to see that wistful sad in my children's eyes ever again. but it's long past too long ago that luke learned something of that pain, and it's so very too soon that the look in anastasia's eyes will be real sadness, too.

sometimes, sometimes i can find hope in that. sometimes it can remind me that the longing i feel for my children to be free of that broken-world sadness is a reminder to long for a world that's not broken, to long for the promise we cling to of eternal life where there are no more broken arms or broken hearts. sometimes. but yesterday, this mama who would have her almost-toddler stay a baby with an intact heart could only grieve the heartbreaks that she will have to face, the heartbreaks that her big brother already has. yesterday, this mama could only cry out with the psalmist, "How long, O Lord?...How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" (psalm 13:1&2). must my almost-toddler know that sorrow, too?

(photos by sonya ewing photography)

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I am in complete agreement with you, and sometimes wonder about the sadness that children seem to express. What depth do they know? Is that look a look from their Maker, for you? I feel like I know Anastasia a bit better through your blog. Thank you so much, sister, for sharing! Your writing is a gift to me, and my soul. With much love, Jenny Garrett