As previously mentioned, I love lists. Like a lot of parents (and people in general), I make lists for a variety of reasons: to-do lists, grocery lists, lists for short-term and long-term goals. I realized that what all of these lists have in common is that they are focused on the future. While it may be the immediate future – a grocery run or a daily to-do list, for example – I rarely, if ever, make lists that focus on the moment. Lists that highlight the present for when it will all too quickly become my past.
I have a dear friend who regularly uses the phrase “Be Still My Heart” in photo captions of her children on Facebook. I adore this expression. It is an old, English expression of excitement, one that often describes an act of swooning by a suitor over his object of desire. Considering this definition, I find it even more perfect that my friend pairs such words with simple, everyday childhood moments frozen in time. For parenthood is a continuous act of swooning. The relationship between a mother or a father and her or his child contains a deep, profound, wildly irrational kind of love that grabs a hold of you instantaneously in a way that makes it difficult to ever completely, solely focus on anything or anyone else again. Your heart is literally stilled the moment the little one enters your world and any room thereafter. It rises and catches in your throat when he or she coos, moves, smiles, or weeps. Your meaning becomes an extension of your child’s. Your failures and victories become an extension of theirs. It does not mean who you were before you fell hopelessly in parental love no longer exists. You are still, in human form and want, you. But the reality is that never again can your heart be fully disentangled from theirs. You will never again be defined in a way that does not, in some part, include your role to them. Your heart is reborn the moment your child is born, and your soul’s desire becomes, in no small part, to help that child save his own. And regardless of where they go or what they do, you will long for them in the stillness of your heart. You will desire a relationship with them and will more fully understand God’s relationship with you through their and your merciful love.
It is in this vein that I decided to make a new type of list. Not one that looks to the future but a list, in the moment, of the things my two-year-old, Patito, and eight-month-old, Osito, do that still my heart. The things that give this mother great pride and further swell my prejudiced heart.
- #bestillmyheart When Patito hears her sister cry and runs to console her. Her first thought is to grab a toy or anything, really, to make her happy. It swells my heart to know that, as sisters, their hearts are forever intertwined.
- #bestillmyheart When Osito snuggles her face into the crook of my neck. Every night before bed we spend a few precious moments together. I rock her and sing to her or talk to her, and each time she leans in and nestles her face into me. It swells my heart to have her faith, her trust, and I pray that she always leans in to all life has to offer.
- #bestillmyheart When Patito says, “Bless you, Mommy,” when I sneeze. She is such a mannerly child. I believe that “manners maketh the man,” and it swells my heart to see her thoughtfully use good manners and exercise gratitude regularly.
- #bestillmyheart When Osito smiles. She has the sweetest, most welcoming smile that she wears without regret. It swells my heart to see her know joy. Experiencing her and her sister’s joy and helping to facilitate it when I can will always be one of my greatest accomplishments.
- #bestillmyheart When Patito does the sign of the cross. Each night we pray together. I love that she knows Jesus and Mary and that she ends our prayers with the sign of the cross and the kissing of her thumb. It swells my heart to see that she is learning not only our family’s traditions but the traditions of her church family. I pray that her and Osito’s joy ultimately comes from knowing him.
- #bestillmyheart When I see my girls with their Papi. I know that one day they will choose partners based on their partnership with him. It swells my heart to see Patito run into his arms when he comes home, to see Osito reach for him and bounce excitedly, to see them both long for his embrace and to see him give it so willingly in return.
- #bestillmyheart When I hear Patito sing passionately along with Frozen. Watching her interests unfold, seeing her take part in them with gusto swells my heart. Years from now I will always remember the tiny voice from the backseat singing each, sometimes self-created, word, begging for “Let it Go, Mommy.” Her ability to sing with abandon is a profound lesson for me daily on how to let go.
- #bestillmyheart When I witness both girls’ love of music, which is important to our extended family. My heart swells when Patito sings the words of a song my Mamaw taught me – “You Can’t Get to Heaven” – that she now knows by heart and at the way Osito rocks on her arms to the rhythm. At the fact that both of my girls’ moods can turn on a dime when a song, especially the right song, is played. Right now for Patito that is anything Frozen and for Osito it is “This Little Light of Mine.”
This list, of course, could go on and on. These are moments I wish, like a picture, I could freeze in time. They are moments that quiet the chaos of my everyday life, and in that stillness remind me that my heart is full. Full of hope. Full of grace, and, when I look at my girls, full of the promise of tomorrow.