I was unprepared for the mirror of mothering, for the millions of ways that I face my own self in these tinies, for the ways that they mirror back to us our own temperaments, personalities, tricks, quirks, wonders. I was unprepared for seeing some of my own struggles play out in miniature, and I have to watch myself, be careful that I’m not assigning my own motives and baggage to the small souls working out what God has already worked in. And sometimes, when we are talking, and we are listening, and we are going through our real walking-around, yes-this-is-it life, I hear my husband say things to them that he himself needs to hear, and I hear myself give counsel that is probably for my own self.
The mirror came into focus again this weekend. She withdraws when she’s feeling Too Much, she hides away behind nonchalance, I think it’s an effort to protect herself from being hurt. And when her grandparents were getting ready to leave again, packing up their bags for the long flight back to the midwest, she began to withdraw, to hide, to duck from hugs, to reply sullenly. It crossed the line into rudeness, she was wounding others with her own wounds, and so we hid in her room for a while, together, talking it through. (I get this part of her, oh, yes, I do.)
We prayed, and I counseled, and encouraged her. I spoke about she could make it her job for the morning to make others happy, to make them feel loved, to send them home with full hearts of good memories.
She cried and said, But, Mum, I’m thinking about it! I’m thinking about how much I love them, everyone, all the time! I think it! I just don’t know how to do it right.
I ran my finger across her eyelashes, holding her tears for her, and said, gently, gently, Sweetheart, sometimes thinking about it isn’t quite enough for us, is it? And right now, you need to start loving them in a way that they will understand and see and feel. Love with your life, with your hands, with what you do, with your words, okay?
And here’s the amazing thing. When you love someone, when you make it your business to give them joy? Darling, you find joy yourself.
Really. I promise. Want to go practice together now?
I leave for Haiti in two weeks. (Apparently time flies when you’re scared.)