I'd like to pause our recent exploration of postmodern worship practices to wish a very Happy Birthday to somebody important.
Since before my son's birth we have referred to him as "The Kid." The capital letters are important. It's both a proper noun and a term of endearment. The Kid has officially turned one.
One whole year of existence on the Earth (outside of the almost 10 months he spent incubating, of course).
One year of staying up all night.
One year of first everything.
One year of doctors visits.
One year of outgrowing clothing.
I have a little book that I write in and someday I'll hand it over to The Kid. It's about lots of beginnings . . . his baptism day, his first time seeing a dog at his Aunt Lacie's house, his first time being held by my Grandpa, his first notes on the piano. So many firsts. And sometimes I write little pieces of advice to him in there:
"Don't worry too much about what other people think . . ."
"Always remember to thank the people who prepare your food and clean up places where you work and play."
The night of The Kid's birth was the longest night. Ever. Period. From the very beginning he has been a night owl. After two (almost three) days of pitocin and i.v. fluids I wasn't really sure we'd make it through the night. Around midnight it was clear to all of us that The Kid was about ready to make his appearance. He was born at 3:45 a.m. and was very quiet - after all that fuss! His eyes were wide open. He looked at everybody. He looked at everything. They laid him on my chest and he looked at me. He looked at his father. We all looked back. It was the scariest and best moment of my life.
By about 4:30 a.m. we were in a regular room. We were visited by nurses, pediatric specialists, the billing department, family members, etc. We did not sleep.
After a few days we got to go home, and even then, we did not sleep. I wasn't prepared for the intensity of every moment of every day that followed - and I wasn't prepared for the fact that the days no longer ended. The days went on and on into the night. Crying, rocking, changing, feeding . . . constantly repeating the cycle. People told me to try to sleep whenever he slept, but I couldn't do it! I spent hours wishing that I could sleep, but when he fell asleep I was unable to put him down - unable to look away. His sleep was the most exciting thing I'd ever seen. I watched him as much as I could even though it probably wasn't the healthiest choice for me.
For an entire year now I have gotten up in the middle of the night almost every night. Probably 350 out of 365 nights have been interrupted by visits to the nursery at midnight, 3, 4, or 5 a.m. Until 2 nights ago. A few nights ago he slept from 7:30-11:30 p.m. and then again from 11:45-6:15. And then the next night he did the same. On the eve of his birthday, he slept straight through . . . all of us did. I woke up both mornings feeling amazed, rested, and a bit sad. Sad because I see it differently than I used to.
All year long I've lamented my constant sleeplessness. I find myself again and again wishing that mothers with "good sleepers" would stop talking to me about their children who sleep . . . about ways I could have done better to help The Kid sleep. But then, that's only one way of looking at it - and parenthood is teaching me that there are always more ways to see a thing.
Yes, The Kid has taught me a lot about seeing the world with new eyes. His eyes, after all, are about as new as eyes can be.
Before The Kid was born I had plenty of sleepless nights, but for other reasons. As a person who has struggled with anxiety for a long time, I've often given up hours of sleep to lay awake wondering and worrying. Will the house be broken into? Will I wake up in the morning? Is this my last night on earth? - those questions might seem overdramatic, but they are the loudest questions in my head sometimes.
I believe it was sometime around The Kid's third week at home that I was pacing the floor at 3 or 4 a.m. and suddenly realized that it was the middle of the night and I wasn't afraid. It had been years since my last experience of being unafraid at night.
When I was in college I worked as a camp counselor during the summers and experienced incredible freedom from fear while on night hikes and campouts. For some reason the 750 acre wood up in Townsend, TN gave me a sense of understanding about the night. I could walk slowly without a flashlight, unworried by the night sounds, at home in my poplar tree cathedral.
But sometime after all that, when I went away to graduate school and launched into my "adult life," I learned how to feel alone in a crowd . . . how to fear strangers . . . how to feel suspicious of the night sounds and the wind in the trees. What does that to a person?
And maybe this is the more important question: How can a person recover their sight?
I love working with children every day. They renew my ability to see the world with hopeful eyes. They take me back to those fundamental choices:
*How to be kind. *Why I should choose kindness.*How to be brave. *Why I should choose bravery. *How to be honest. *Why I should choose honesty. *How to be playful. *How to be joyful. *Why it is important to play. *Why it is good to be expressive and open.
But at night, even after becoming a teacher, I would go home and leave my work behind. The sun would go down. The fear would settle in on my chest like a hundred pound weight. And I would carry it there, willingly.
The Kid has invaded my life completely. He gets into everything - just like a good one year old ought to! He goes with me to work in the morning. He comes home with me in the afternoon. In fact, he often visits with me during my lunch break. I can't go more than a minute or two without thinking of him. And when I wake in the middle of the night, even though I'm tired, I know he's there in the other room, sleeping in my care. This gift of his presence in my life has caused me to lean heavily on God's shepherding words. For most of the past year I've used my late night baby rocking visits to read scripture and pray. Instead of fear settling in, I experience the joy of a certain peace. Instead of anxiousness, I find hopefulness.
None of this means that my life is insulated from anything difficult or dangerous. My house could still be broken into. We could still experience any number of tragedies. Anybody can. But God is my shepherd, and I will not want for peace. I will not want for company or community. Not just because The Kid is here, but because The Kid has reminded me that God is here. God was always here with me. God was here when I gave my sleep away out of fear. God was here with me even when I believed that I was alone.
The Kid looks at our home with new eyes because his eyes actually are new. I look at our home with new eyes because The Kid has inspired me. The Kid is here because he is a gift from God. God is here because . . . God Is.
Happy Birthday to you, Kid! You have taught me so much. I love you.