My daughter recently caught me staring at her. Not blankly staring, but rather the intense, soul-shaking stare that happens every now and then when the magnitude of love for your children engulfs you. I’m sure she was horrified. She was doing something completely ordinary. In fact there was nothing particularly special about the moment at all, until there was.
She was home sick from school, and we had just about exhausted our low-energy, indoor options. It was nearly time to start dinner, and I needed to distract her. I set up a water bead station, and she immediately asked that irresistible question, “Mama, do you want to play with me?”. Without hesitation, I gave in and helped her transfer the beads from one container to another.
As she ran her hands through the water beads, I was completely struck by movement of her fingers. I couldn’t help but reminisce about her tiny infant hands and wonder how on earth two-and-a-half years had passed so quickly. Then I noticed how she was sitting – with crisscrossed legs – and the big-girl posture almost brought me to tears. Just about every part of her little body suddenly felt not-so-little, and I allowed myself to get lost in the wonder of this person… this whole person.
She concentrated intensely on what she was doing and narrated every decision. Right then, I wasn’t watching her play, but I was witnessing her wildly deliberate thought process in motion. My baby girl was operating like a big kid, and I was in awe of her independence. I could see her, really see her, without a single twinge of frustration or distraction.
She looked up, caught me in this cathartic space and said “what are you doing?”. I smiled and wondered how I could ever explain to her what was really happening.
Behind that moment was the deepest and most-felt sense of motherhood. I was so completely connected to her that I physically couldn’t look away or adjust my mental focus. I was fixated entirely on her, and she could feel valued knowing she had my full and uninterrupted attention.
Behind that moment was a mom watching her baby grow up right then and there. Every good memory and all my hopes for her future were bundled into a single feeling of gratitude. All at once, I mourned the loss of every short and beautiful phase we’ve already had and celebrated the increased joy that comes with each new experience. I wanted time to stop and every moment with her to feel just as intentional as this one.
Behind that moment was a parent welcoming this gift of motherhood with open arms. I felt connected to every mother, especially my own, through a common understanding of joyful surrender to this role. I remembered things my mom used to say to me – things that once made me feel confused and likely uncomfortable – and I understood entirely. I comprehended what it meant to hurt when your child hurt and why parents are brought to tears watching their children do the simplest things.
In these best moments, motherhood is the most intense and unwavering love personified. The feeling is so uncontrolled and so inherent that I can’t help but point to God’s love for us. Surely my daughter will not understand the moments behind my mom stares any time soon, and surely I won’t be able to give the experiences proper weight no matter how hard I try. Still, I’ll cling tightly to this feeling and eagerly await the next time a moment takes me away.
Leah Muse Photography