Let Me Learn from my Daughter

RaggedyAnn

It is 2 am and there is a cry in the dead of night. One moment stillness, the next a piercing scream crackling over the monitor. I leap up and am on my feet running before I even fully comprehend what is going on, my brain still asleep but my whole body fully alert, heart pumping, adrenaline racing. This is how I respond to my baby’s cries. This is what I do when she wants me in the darkness, when the rest of the world slumbers and all else is quiet. I do it every time. Even after giving myself permission to be a bit less vigilant, a trifle more relaxed. I just can’t do it. I hear my child’s cry and my response is instantaneous.

We are go, go, go all day long. There is not a moment in which I”m not saving her from something. She, of course, interprets this as utter torment. All I do is persecute her. I imagine her with a Veruca Salt voice, a tiny, shrill baby version of her British accent, screaming, “But Mommy, I want the electrical cord now!” As I struggle to focus on my work—work that requires serious attention, work that is my passion—I look up, and she is gnawing on the electrical cord, wedging herself under the armchair, pulling down the lamp, knocking over chairs onto herself. She doesn’t want me to stop her from doing any of these things, but she certainly wants me to help her out once she is in them. I swoop in, save the day, avert the crisis, soothe and comfort, then start all over again.

Then there are the things she desperately wants to do but that would wreak havoc on the tiny little world that is our home. She goes for the remote, our cell phones, my hair. She rips my pearl necklace apart and leaves the glass apothecary jar in shards. She must pull every diaper off her changing table. She has to pick every flower in the yard. She cannot abide not being allowed to climb into the dishwasher. These are desperate needs!

We listen to the same music over and over again. She demands it. We read the same books over and over again. We pace up and down, up and down, seeking an elusive nap.

These things are hard. They challenge me. I go to bed exhausted every day. But I am not complaining. This first year as a mother, I’ve learned more than I have in all others combined. This past year with my daughter, she has taught me more than all my teachers, professors, and priests ever managed. She has taught me far more than I have ever taught her. My daughter has shown me God’s love, and she has given me the best understanding of God my Father that I can ever have as a mere human being.

I cry out, and He is there for me. Any time. In the darkness, in the dead of night. Especially then. My baby can’t stand to be alone, struggles with stillness and silence and the thoughts and fears that accompany those things. I do, too. And He is there for me, just as I am for her.

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I am non-stop. I don’t give Him a break. He is constantly saving me. Countless moments every day, year after year, adding up to a whole lifetime. And I am fairly certain that there were many, many times that He saved me and I knew absolutely nothing about it at all. In fact, there were times He was busy saving me when I would have told Him that He was doing the exact opposite. Jobs I was convinced I needed that would have been all wrong for me. Men I desperately wanted to be with who would just have made my life miserable. Hard lessons I didn’t want to face but needed to learn. Long roads that made me weary but that I had to walk. Oh why did He torment me so?

I imagine His sadness as He sees me make another bad choice, turn in a wrong direction. There she goes judging others again. Here she is worrying and ingesting instead of just trusting in me. Here she is asking again, another list of demands.

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And it’s repetitive and exhausting and disheartening. But still He carries me, paces up and down, up and down, soothes and comforts and never stops loving me. There is nothing specific I did to make Him love me. I don’t love baby girl because she is so adept at crawling or because she tried broccoli and liked it. And there never was a time He didn’t love me. I can’t remember when my love for baby girl started; it was just always there. There is nothing she could do to make me stop loving her. My love for her doesn’t disappear because I wanted a good night’s sleep or because carrying her makes my neck ache. It doesn’t work like that with her. Or with Him.

Even in the midst of the crying, the defiance, and the frustration, she clings to me and looks up with eyes shining with trust and devotion. Oh God, let me learn from my daughter. Help me to always cling to You. Let me always look to You with trust and devotion. May I always be confident in your boundless love. Even at 2 am when my body is longing for sleep but my baby girl is longing for me more.

Written July 2012, just before my daughter turned 1 year old.

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