I know when a baby is a baby – from the moment of conception. But just when does a baby lose its baby status? Is it when the sweet little giggle doesn’t come quite so easily? Or when the short, chubby legs take their first steps? Maybe it’s when you no longer need to kiss the boo-boos to make it all better. Or when tiny little teeth start to protrude.
Does a baby grow up when he’s able to smear pureed bananas on his face? Or when she knows how to chatter ‘mama’ and ‘dada’? Maybe a baby is no longer a baby when she can put her princess panties on all by herself. Or when he can brush his own teeth.
When the sippy cups lose their lids, and car seats become boosters, is that when a baby is no longer a baby? Does a baby grow up when he can read his first sentence, or when she can tie her own shoes?
“It goes by so fast.” “Treasure these times.” “They grow like weeds.” “He’s not a baby anymore.” “What a big girl!”
To a mother, a baby will always be their baby.
What is it in a mother’s love that calms the inconsolable? A tender touch, sweet nothings whispered, silent smiles, nose in cheek nuzzles? The tears dry up, the boo-boo’s kissed, the nose is wiped, a heart is content. Perhaps it is that tired smile from nights of interrupted slumber, or the piercing eyes that see through the chocolate-smudged guilty fingers, or the hearty laugh that fills the house after the 17th knock-knock joke. Secure, sacred, with just the right shape for a three-year old to curl up into, she opens herself to life and God takes it from there.
It’s nearly birthday time. I’m always amazed at how focused kids are on birthdays. When one comes around, nothing else matters except their birthday. And I’m not talking about the birthday boy. No – the word ‘birthday’ has some mystic force that lightens their eyes and grabs their imaginations. ‘My birthday is in 1 week!’ ‘My birthday is in only 8 months!’ It’s so earth-shattering from their tiny perspective. As we get older, birthdays can become a drudgery, just a memory of the ‘good ‘ol times.’ Celebrating the 20th anniversary of a 29th birthday – wishing to be back in that simpler, more innocent, wrinkle-free time.
What is a birthday, anyway? We think of cake and gifts and parties. But the day of our birth was an intimate, sacrificial, painful event, one of the most emotional, unforgettable moments of our parents’ lives that we somehow don’t remember. A day of passing from the nacient world to this world, full of wonder and awe, things only dreamed of, so much hope and love and joy to explore and experience. I remember the birth days of all of my children very well, and I delight in their anticipation for the celebration. Their birthdays are celebrations of their very existence, found only in God’s creative miracle of Life. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Life.
How did you make these angel faces, Lord? A pinch of starlight, kissed with morning dew? Sprinkled with rose petals and washed in aerated waterfalls? Only Your infinite hands could so delicately weave the rosy cheeks and laughter with the wide eyes and hope-filled expressions of these little darlings. So perfectly made, with their imperfections, as You saw fit in your all-knowing wisdom. You have transformed a soul with Your Love.
The desires of a child must crease Jesus’ cheeks. Their innocent intentions to love, the best they know, with unquenchable efforts, can bring any adult to her knees in humility. Straining to see the images in my book, I lowered it down to JR’s inquisitive eyes. My finger, like a conductor’s baton, moved rapidly across the page as the deacon recited the prayers for the Stations of the Cross. Kneel. In the silent pause between prayers, I watched JR intently scan the page, looking for the words he recognized. His 8-year-old lips barely moving, uttering whispers of sound as he pensively stared down the prayer book. How God must have stirred his little heart, seeing those images of Christ’s Passion, his only desire to be a part of it all. Enjoy this innocent time, young one, with your small cross. It only gets bigger as you do, beginning to be more fully immersed in the Passion of Christ. May your desire grow with it.
We went to the park today – tiny hand wrapped around my thumb, ten tennis shoes trotting on ahead. As soon as the playground was in sight, a blur of blue jeans disappeared over the hill. AC was in the stroller, her saucers of sky peaking out of pink and purple fleece. Later she tried out the swing and realized she preferred to be stationary, while Mommy swung sideways next to her, nibbling on her fingers. Nothing is as delicious as baby’s fingers. I suppose it is the personified love that can’t help but leak right out of a baby’s fingertips. I just want to eat all of that love right up. So innocent, carefree, unblemished, trusting. Nothing but pure love radiates right out of her mouth when she smiles. God knew what he was doing, showing us His love through babies, through Jesus too. Love personified, so innocent, unblemished, selfless enough to give up everything, even His very flesh, for us to eat up. I’m so thankful for the Body of Jesus, given to us each Mass, that I can receive Him and consume His Love, His Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, each and every day.
“By shedding His true blood for us, and exhibiting to us His true flesh in the Eucharist, He conferred upon our flesh the capacity of salvation.” ~St. Irenaeus, 150 AD