One Step at a Time

Last night, Carolyn took one teensy little hands-free step. The first move to independence! Just now, Carolyn kept hold of my hand long enough to totter a couple steps away to something she wanted, then she grabbed another handhold and moved on. It seemed symbolic. We have these babies in our homes for some years, carrying them and their needs. Then, gradually, if we do our job right, they learn to walk, then run, on their own. They race off into life, not needing our hand-holding to keep them upright.

A couple parents with older children than I, in the context of other conversations, have intimated that I cannot now comprehend the difficulty and sense of loss that will accompany Carolyn leaving the nest. I know they are right. My relationship with my daughter is young; in the years to come, it will acquire many layers and facets that I can only imagine now.

Nevertheless, another part of me insists, "But this is the job." It is what we do, this pouring everything into another for 20 years so that they may leave us. While many enter a career for life, or for a specified time until they move up or out of their own accord, the job description of motherhood is this. Mothers--like missionaries, so it is said--work themselves out of a job.

There is a sense, of course, in which children always hold their parents' hands. Currently, when Carolyn is entranced with interests of her own, I'm still supposed to stay in the room. When I disappear, she is jerked from her play to the all-consuming question of "Where is Mommy?" Security is a necessary prerequisite for constructive risk-taking; my proximity allows her the freedom to pursue her own devices. Likewise, as she grows up, I want my steadfastness to be the anchor that allows her to explore. Because I am always the safe haven she can return to if things go badly, she need not worry about sticking her neck out a bit. And, by God's grace, it will be because of the compass and charts we give her that she finally leaves the harbor and sails straight on her own path.

It is right and good that Carolyn one day leave our home, whatever mourning that brings with it. Until then, I'll enjoy the time we have and her sweet dependence on us. Because last night, when she took that tiny first independent step? It was straight toward her daddy's waiting arms.

Quote of the Day

I liked this quote I found at Femina:
Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as strong faith; but the weak, doubting Christian is not like to have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way seasick hath not so comfortable a voyage as he that is strong and healthful.

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

*An Addendum

to this post

Speaking of missionaries, some of those who knew me before college have to wonder if I fell off that wagon. Beginning somewhere around age 5, I spent 15 years dogmatically (and vocally) sure I would one day enter the foreign mission field. Some thought the plan a waste of my gifts. (I doubt they consider homemaker an improvement.) But I longed for the mission field with the certainty of divine calling--a certainty that waned in college as my understanding of faith, missions, and callings changed. My father once wisely counseled that my future plans could change and it would be okay to let them. Though it cost me some doubt and a good amount of pride (After all, in evangelical circles a call to missions is generally revered as the highest calling one can have.), I finally pursued this new calling to with all the passion of the old one. (My transitional goal, teaching, was always tied up in my larger goal--first an opportunity for mission work abroad, then a mission at home, and finally a purposeful means of income until I could be a homemaker.) Seven years down that road, five into its fulfillment, I have no regrets.

It's funny, really. I am determinedly ambitious. Having excelled in an academic setting in high school and college, it seemed natural for me to continue that through at least a Master's degree. But why spend all the time and money with no intention of using it? Mothers don't get a higher salary or more promotions because they have extra letters after their name. Education, certainly, is an admirable goal regardless of profession. . .but degrees and education are not inextricably linked. It was difficult at first to give up the idea of academic accolades. But ambition should not be limited to academia any more than to professional careers. I still pursue higher education--without the unwanted required courses, papers, and exams. I am still determinedly ambitious, yet my ambitions now revolve around hearth and home, and they are every bit as daunting as any academic ambition I ever conceived. As G.K. Chesterton wrote of huswifery and motherhood, "How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." To love and give and teach and labor in order to help that which is dear to you need you no longer--"hugeness of her task" indeed.

There are moments when I am impatient for more of that "hugeness" to trickle down--for the days when I can teach Carolyn to read and write and bake and sew. After all, ambition and patience are not natural companions. Then I remember that those exciting days will bring new difficulties of their own--parenting decisions more difficult than whether or not to let the baby cry in her crib for a few minutes. And then I am doubly thankful for the simple joys and simple problems of babyhood.


Because It's Funny

This, off the Pop-Tart box:

If you can't read the caption, it says, "It's hard to learn when you've got cinnamon for brains."