The sweet girl has been in a very "mothering" season with her baby dolls lately. This is very sweet to see. She's a lovely little girl (I'm not at all biased, am I?) but she's never been one of those little girls who just mothered every doll and every real baby in sight, the way some little girls do. And that's just fine. Still, I must confess it's been precious to see and hear her doing instinctively maternal things with her current favorite baby doll...feeding her in the doll high chair she got for Christmas, dressing her, rocking her, wrapping her in blankets, even pretending to nurse her!
A couple of nights ago she really touched my heart when she announced that she was going to sing to her baby at bedtime. She had already put the doll in the little tiny travel doll bed which she keeps next to her own bed. I watched her squat down next to the doll bed, bend low over the doll, and begin to croon, in her wavery, warbly, not-quite-in-tune way, a made-up lullaby. She's done it two nights in a row now. The song goes something like this:
Shut your eyes, shut your eyes,
Shut your eyes, my baby.
I am singing you a song.
She even tenderly closes the doll's eyes (it's one of those babydolls with eyes that can open and shut) while she sings it.
And if I wasn't feeling tender and teary enough last enough, after she finished this rendition, she clambered on into bed and I tucked her in. "Would you like me to sing to you?" I asked her with a smile. (I usually do sing to her, most nights.) "Yes," she said promptly. "You sang to your baby, and now I'll sing to mine," I teased. She smiled up at me and then said simply, "Can you sing the song I just sang to my baby?"
So of course I did. I tried to follow her words, and as near as I could make it out, her tune. She loved it, and asked me to make up more words. I sang two or three verses, just making it up off the top of my head (well, all right...off the top of my heart) as I moved along. It was a lovely moment I'll not soon forget.
I've been thinking a lot about mothering lately...what it means to be a mother, how being a mother has changed the way I do and think about so many things. I've been realizing, for instance, that I read books very differently than I used to, pre-motherhood. That's one reason why I am finding the reading of David Laskin's book, The Children's Blizzard, so poignant and heart-rending, especially these early scenes (so far) about immigrant pioneer mothers travelling with their babies and young children to the prairies. Yeees, I would have had similar reactions to the book several years ago, but not to quite the same degree and depth, and without such intense identification.
"Seeing like a mother" isn't something that I can put on and take off, like eyeglasses. It's not as though I can choose to take off the lenses for a while and look through some other kind of lens. My vision has sharpened, changed from the inside out, has added an extra layer of seeing to the other ways I already had learned to see. I am still the same person that I was almost six years ago (when I got pregnant for the first time, which is really when I date the beginning of my journey as a mother) I am still me, a Christian woman who has a lot of different roles: daughter, wife, sister, friend (among others). But becoming a mother has changed me more deeply than I ever would have expected, so that it feels far deeper than just adding another "role" at the bottom of a list of roles I play. People talk about ontological changes at ordinations...but I wonder sometimes about ontological changes when one conceives a child. If I had to choose the key deepening events of my life thus far, I think I would have to say they are: birth....conversion (baptism, re-birth)...marriage...and motherhood.
I think God uses those last two, marriage and motherhood, to shape my sanctification, and to re-shape my life in completely different ways than it would be shaped otherwise. Which is not to say that he doesn't shape other lives beautifully and well without either of those two events! Only that those have been very significant in the ongoing shaping of my life in recent years and that sometimes it's hard for me to fathom what I would be like, look like, see like, if he'd taken me down another path.