I love them like a woman who has lost ha-damn mind. I do nothing without considering the impact my children will feel. I am careful in my interactions with them to communicate my love and respect for them. When I don’t I am (usually) quick to apologize – not because I want to be in their good graces (children have nothing but good graces for their parents at this age), but because the thought of them hurting makes my stomach sick. I am compelled to care and act in their best interest.
These are all very normal Parent feelings and granted, hormones are mostly on my side when it comes to my children. From the moment they were conceived I have been chemically oriented to love them sacrificially; to put their well being above my own survival and even to be grateful to do it. (Clever species preservation).
But I remember when it wasn’t automatic. And I remember that love happened anyway. Sanity, sleep, happiness were set aside for long nights and constant, painful nursing and words of comfort to a baby I couldn’t make myself reconnect with. Love happened and it was not an accident. I chased it into dark alleys – or maybe it chased me – and observed its secrets. We danced, Love and I to a painful melancholy minor key that wouldn’t resolve.
Then somehow dancing changed the music.
And there are days like today when the whining is endless and the cutest little boy I’ve ever seen is refusing to sleep and physically assaulting me and punishing me with screams if I dare to put him down. Days when I buy the time for making dinner with a roll of toilet paper I will be vacuuming out of the carpet for the next week. And these days feel just a little more like duty.
But even on these days, when I am at the end of patience and compassion, I have no doubt I would walk through fire for them. That is motherhood.
But it struck me today, rather annoyingly: maybe this is how we should love everybody.
And maybe motherhood is just the particular title for the thing women offer to children that should be the thing we all offer to each other. You bend and you trip and you try to be graceful, but you feel like a mess. You whisper when you want to scream. You do the other person’s chores when you’re tired yourself. You wick away another offense. You dig in your heels when others cut and run.
Maybe wherever love is, it must be chosen and then it must be one’s obligation. And maybe the duty will bring the feelings that make it a compulsion.
Love chooses and it transforms. In the dull moments, in the funny moments, in the painful ones, in the ones that scare you and shake you. In the moments that make you feel alive and worthy. It moves in and out of hurt and healing and it is acutely expressive and entirely integral to how things play out.
So we must insist on compassion and concern and we must tighten bleeding palms around slipping ropes of patience. We do it for tiny humans because they are vulnerable and still learning and need our grace.
But that nagging truth… everybody is vulnerable and still learning and needing our grace. Adult humans just aren’t as cute as baby ones. But if I can do it for the littles, I can do it for the bigs.