I’ve noticed that we tend to celebrate infancy as a time of blissful, uncomplicated simplicity. However, as I’ve watched my son’s young life, I’ve become aware that his day-to-day is fraught with frustration.
A couple weeks ago, he learned how to crawl. It was not always a pleasant experience. He slipped. He fell. He cried. He strained. There was nothing I could do. To take away the struggle would be to take away the growth. All I could do is make sure he didn’t hurt himself too badly, hold him close and sing to him if he bumped his head, and celebrate every faltering step as a great triumph.
For me, there was both pride and pain: pride at watching him growing into a little boy, pain at the suffering I knew that change caused. The world is foreign and hostile when we are just born: the negotiations of digestion, the persistent inarticulateness of speech, the irresistible weight of gravity, the complete perceptual re-orientations as new parts of our brain turn on.
There is power and helplessness in my love. I can’t make him walk, or talk, or digest. I can’t prevent him from crying or bumping his head. However, I can make sure that there is enough space for him in my love for him to learn what a beautiful place this world is.
In those beautiful moments, when he stares into my eyes as I sing him to sleep, or watch his face light up when he sees me for the first time in the morning, I’m learning that our love will be enough for him, as he learns how to navigate this world for himself. Perhaps that’s true for all of us, as well.