Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wife Rule #28: What Takes Our Breath Away

A friend of ours recently took some portraits of her eight-year-old daughter. Looking at the pictures, she commented wistfully that "sometimes, she takes my breath away."


I know just what she means. It's true that young kids provide easy fodder for comic relief: how can anyone help but have a little fun at the expense of a person who regularly ends up with spaghetti in his hair? Or a person who, not wanting to listen to your latest lecture, defiantly turns the other way and bonks her head directly into the kitchen counter?

It's also true that young kids can be downright aggravating at times, such as when you ask them to do something that seems simple, such as getting in their pajamas and brushing their teeth, and you come back thirty minutes later to find them inexplicably still involved in the complicated process of removing their pants.

And let's not forget dirty diapers. There's definitely something there that can take your breath away.

But there are also the "sometimes" when the fulfilment of being a parent sneaks up unexpectedly and surpasses your highest expectations. These gems are mined out of the mountain of day-to-day living with these marvelous little people, and come in surprisingly simple ways. They come with hugs and laughter; with assignment and accomplishment; with earnest imitation; with love notes and crooked drawings; and with sweet spirituality that seems way too big for these little souls.

They come in quiet moments when you look at your child and are suddenly overwhelmed by the largeness of her spirit; the goodness of his efforts; the beauty of her countenance; the vision of what he will someday be. These are the types of "sometimes" that fill a parent so completely that they take your breath away.

My wife and I should know. With our 4.9 kids, we have had our share of wonderful "sometimes" throughout the last eight years of parenthood.

There's the "sometime" that our oldest daughter Dawn, age two back then, was misbehaving on a public building tour. Her infraction consisted of wandering into a roped-off section of a room, where the ropes were arguably over her head and out of site anyway. After chiding her gently, my wife and I noticed she was missing. Looking around, we saw her in a far-off corner of the room, kneeling in toddler prayer and asking Heavenly Father to help her to be more obedient.

There's the "sometimes" when our daughter Rachel presents us with an adorably colored and cut-out paper kitty to hang on our bedroom door; a self-portrait (life-size) made of no less than eight sheets of printer paper, all cut and colored, including a whole piece just for the unnaturally-long neck; or the many randomly-shaped pieces of cut paper she left on our pillows shortly after receiving her very own pair of kiddie-scissors; or the sweet love notes she has left taped to the door in the garage, to greet me after a long day away at work.

There's the "sometime" that occurred just last week, when our four-year-old son Scott learned to ride his "two-weewa" bike without training wheels in approximately 2.5 minutes. I watched him ride up and down the sidewalk for a surprisingly long time, and I didn't get bored. The grin on my face was only exceeded by the joyful, yet dignified expression of pride he wore. He has hardly put his Official Two-Wheeler Bike down since, regardless of wind or weather.

There's the "sometimes" that consist of uncontrolled bouts of giggling and howling laughter that result from tickling our two-year-old son Andrew in the ribs. The wild glee in his smile and the eventual tears that begin to stream from his eyes, right as I reach that sweet spot of maximum tickle intensity without going overboard, are certainly enough to take away the breath of both of us.

And let's not forget the sublime "sometimes" of each child being born. There is something pure and holy about each birth: the veil separating heaven and earth, having grown already thin, is pierced momentarily by this tiny person, as she begins her temporary sojourn on earth. At these times I can sense the higher place she came from and I am reminded of the destiny she is meant to fulfill.

William Wordsworth said it so well in his "Intimations of Immortality:"

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

God our Eternal Father sent us here to learn and grow. I have no doubt that He is disappointed when we make messes; when we fuss and frown; when we ignore Him and disobey Him; when we turn defiantly from Him and bonk ourselves into the Countertop of Life.

Yet He has endowed each of us, His children, with the seeds of Divinity. And despite our tendency to hide the most noble aspects of our character, He provides us opportunities where our divinity sometimes shows through, and works with us tirelessly until we eventually embrace the divine nature we had from the beginning. He loves His children perfectly; much, much more than I love mine--for each of my own little people first belonged to Him.

Think of it: Trailing clouds of glory! Yes, they sometimes take my breath away.


Jenny and Al said...

Wow, Matt! Mom told me that she had to explain to you what that saying in her house meant--"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." Looks like you figured it out. :)

Amy said...

That post definitely took my breath away. Bravo!

Lindsay said...

I'm glad my little post could inspire such a wonderful essay from you. That was great.