I’ve just tucked my 21-month-old into bed, and it has been one of those extra-sweet nights. One of those life moments where I drank in his every word and facial expression as I rubbed his feet, then his back.
Tonight he took three books to bed, not to read, just to cuddle. Do you know what that does to a mama's heart-a mama with a degree in elementary education and working in the publishing industry? Yep, warms it up like toast.
Two years ago, as I carried him everywhere but couldn't yet hold him in my arms, little Max had already rocked my world. I had given up caffeine, artificial sweeteners, sleeping on my back, prescription allergy medicines and my entire normal-sized wardrobe-before he even looked me in the eye.
Now, when he can seize my heart by merely calling my name, he continues to rock my world. We sit on the floor and pretend to eat out of empty Tupperware just for laughs; we two-step in the aisles of the grocery store to break the monotony of shopping, and we stroll over bridges-stopping to toss sticks and stones into the water-instead of rushing by.
This single toddler is reshaping my Type A personality in a way I have not been able to do myself. And he's probably adding years to my life by teaching me to stop and smell the roses (as well as the dirt). He's quite a powerful force, this baby of mine.
I've seen the impact on my husband as well. My “when-can-I-play-golf” husband is giving up playtime, not to mention sleep time, for his tiny little look-alike. The two of them have already bonded through their conversations ("we're strong, mama's pretty"), violent games and dining preferences (pancake establishments). They admire one another's burping abilities. And it still catches me off guard when I see my husband's large hands dealing with Max's tiny socks or sleeves at bath time.
What turned this busy grown man into a patient bath-giver who makes tubby time more fun than mama ever could? What turned my husband's attention from retirement funds and golf to education funds and child development? Why does he say to me most every day, "Let's hurry up and have another one?" It can't be anything other than all-powerful baby-love.
I see baby-love show up in the most unexpected places. I caught a Dixie Chicks interview a few weeks back, before they made any anti-war, get-you-banned-from-the-radio comments. (We were all feeling a bit more positive about them back then.) The program recounted a list of the Chicks incredible successes and asked them how they feel about it.
Of course they enjoy it and are amazed by it; they had dreamed of this kind of life. But it was the part about unfulfilled dreams that caught my ear, stopped me in my tracks. Because two of the Chicks had their hearts set on something other than music. These beautiful women squirmed in their seats and glanced away from the camera, almost tearfully, as they admitted what could steal their hearts away from the stage and maybe someday split the Chicks: babies.
A softer, gentler rhetoric than the Chicks have been sharing of late, I'll agree. They may have seemed brash on stage, criticizing the President, but the Chicks were particularly vulnerable when they confessed that the bright spots in their future wouldn't be spotlights. No, more like nightlights, in pastel colors. Ah, the power of baby-love . . . even before the little one comes to be. More powerful than wars and rumors of wars.
Men Feel it Too!
My husband is not the only man who has felt the power of baby-love. Just a few days ago, I was listening to a radio essay by a 30-something African-American man, nicknamed "Black," recounting his life so far. His dad was killed when he was 2, and he saw his mom killed when he was 5.
After that, Black said, the love went out of his life. He was passed from relative to relative, all wanting to cash in on his death benefits but not the least interested in Black. He went without food, without love, without all the things a child should have, and he built a wall around his soul.
His one love was for books, but even that love wasn't strong enough to keep him out of gangs, away from dealing drugs, off of the addictive stuff he sold for a living. Things spiraled worse year by year until the flicker of hope in his soul was gone. Until his baby girl was born. He looked in her face, he said, and the walls around his soul came down. Fast-forward to 2003 – Black's first book is being published and he's telling his life story on the radio. Now, he says, no one can say his life didn't amount to anything. The power of a baby … to tear down walls and build bridges to the future.
Black felt it; I bet you have, too. That baby-love in our souls is God-given, which is why you find it in every culture. It's why I am amazed to see parents at the park, the church nursery, the grocery store, who are as in love with their children as I am with mine. This love is universal. It is inherited from our own true Parent, the One who conceived of us as He planned the world: "Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. "-- Ephesians 1:4-5, The Message
Maybe baby-love can shape your vision of Easter this year. Imagine how the greatest of all baby-love was beating in the Father's chest, driving Him to consider the one unthinkable option—sacrificing Jesus—in order to bring his little ones home. We are the ones the Father longed to adopt, the ones he made "the focus of his love." Can you believe He adores you? Adores you as you do your own child—and even more? Delights in your existence, your smile, your life? And He's so glad you were born, even if it was His idea to begin with.
Powerful stuff, this baby-love. And you are the object of His love … baby.
Pamela McClure lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, son and Jack Russell Terrier. The dog has been demoted in importance since the birth of Max, almost two years ago. The dog seems relieved.