It had been a really good weekend. Why then did hot, salty tears decide to fall? It was late and the morning would come soon. Why, emotion now?
Parenting just has that way. Emotions pop onto the scene with little warning. Like that moment where you may simultaneously burst with joy from a fierce/tender love, and ache with an unknown longing.
Our mission is to receive these little beings with a simple assurance that while they don’t come with instructions, with enough love, we can figure it out.
And you have to be comfortable with being a work in process. Because just when you think you may have found your rhythm, something changes again and you learn how to love. How to love more, better, differently, the same. Loving consistently.
And that love morphs and changes. Because they morph and change. And I think I have identified why the hot salty tears.
Tonight our almost 6 year old (going on 16) seized an opportunity: her little brother fell asleep early which left my undivided attention to her. She suggested we cuddle while we watch a movie. “Are you too big to fit in my lap?” I teased. I didn’t really think so, but she did have a wild growth spurt over the recent holiday. It felt like she grew three feet (but more like three inches since summer). “I think I can still fit.” She replied.
But several rustlings later, she really didn’t. “I can’t get comfortable,” she lamented. I understood. And suddenly her dainty twin bed felt just too small. “Oh, okay, we’ll adjust,” I brightened.
Later she sought me out in the worn out recliner and without hesitation climbed up onto me. She still didn’t really fit. But she didn’t care. And I didn’t either. Before long I looked down to see her sprawled across me, fast asleep.
With everybody tucked in, I settled in as well – to the outpouring of emotion. I let the tears fall and soak my pillow and my husband just went with it. I was seized with that panic of what happens if your kids grow up too fast and suddenly one day they are too big to fit in your lap?
That love overflows. It overflows to spill out over your lap and into nooks and crannies that you didn’t know love could pervade. I realized through the swollen eyes and crying onset headache an important truth: when your lap gets too small, your heart grows to make up for it.
And that’s why calling my parents is so important. Because in the process of doing well at raising a really independent daughter, they have had to let their hearts grow to make up for distance in miles and distance in phone calls and emails. Do they know that their love fills in my everyday moments of life and the hobbies that give me endless joy? Their love is why I find a piece of Heaven in a hot cup of coffee and the play of words. I am way too big to fit in their laps now, but their love pervades my life, and is the DNA of the simple truths that make me, well me.
So I have their example to assure me of what happens when our kids no longer fit in my lap, when I lay awake at night, almost fearful of sleep, because I may miss something.
And, I have this beautiful birdhouse. My husband’s grandfather made it by hand, it is beautifully painted with a red chimney and cheerful flowers, and a little sign by the entrance that says, “For Rent, Cheep.” I don’t know what I love more, the attention to details, or the play on words (Get it? For rent, cheep!).
I have never sat on my husband’s grandfather’s lap. I likely never will. But I feel incredibly and magically, and beautifully loved. Thousands of miles separate us, and we don’t talk much. But his love will hang in a prominent place in our kitchen. His and GG’s love have found their way into the nook and crannies of our lives – how that birdhouse will hang and if it could talk, have stories to tell.
I think of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” There was always love to give -it just took on different forms, at different times, in different ways.
And I have to believe that our love is enough, growing in increasing measure, to adapt and morph and continue consistently.
When love overflows the lap, the heart grows to make up for it. We must simply keep our hearts and eyes wide open to witness it.