My 13 month old has just started walking. Parents, you know how it happens. Those first unsure, wobbly steps VERY QUICKLY turn into a tiny human toddling confidently all over the house. I think it only took Aven between one to two weeks to get really good at it. She beams with pride and even applauds herself over this new milestone. It's adorable. But in the beginning when she was first learning, she would reach up and grab one of my hands. Then she would stand there paralyzed, reeeacching up until she could grab hold of my other hand - only then would she feel brave and secure enough to lift her foot and make a move. It took both hands. I had to be all there.
This really made me think about how often I parent with one hand.
In a literal sense, it's totally a survival skill for parents, especially in the beginning when you're holding your child in one arm while functioning with the other. It's kind of astounding what you can accomplish with one less limb out of necessity. But more importantly, how many times do I parent with one hand, in an absentminded or passive way? Giving my daughter only part of me? I know for a fact that 100% of Aven's mama does not always show up. Often purely out of distraction with other things. Or sheer exhaustion from LIFE RAISING A BABY. (HOW do people have more than one child?? I need a nap just thinking about it.)
Of course, we can't be engaged 100% of the time. I know this. Things have to get done, there's work to do, and it sure would be nice if my floor were actually visible through the sea of toys. That's what I tell myself. And that's valid, a lot of the time. But showing my love has to be intentional, always. That's where the divide between the talk and the walk appears. And for our little ones, LOVE is often spelled out with our hands. We have to SHOW UP. We have to put down our technology, our lengthy to do lists, our multitasking, our busyness, our expectations of motherhood, and our selfish tendencies so we can make ourselves fully available to our babies. Because you know what?
Sometimes both hands are required.
To hold their tiny little faces with two hands when you kiss them......Or for a tight hug with both arms.....To cheer and clap for their big and small accomplishments....So you can scoop them up close and tell them how big you love them.....For playing patty cake....To tickle them until their sides hurt from giggling....So you can splash and make a colossal mess during bathtime....Or for a dance session in the kitchen while the bottle is warming up.
So many opportunities for significant displays of love in the simple and mundane. But you're gonna have to use both hands.
Colossians 3:12 & 14 says to "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And over all these, put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity."
That's the mom I want to be.
Parents - PUT ON LOVE.
Look with both eyes, fully focused on little faces. Listen to little voices with two ears instead of one. Use both hands. Use your whole self and your whole heart, because YOU make them brave. YOU teach them extravagant love. By simply being YOU.