Heat: On Mothering
Re-posting this piece from the archives, for all the mothers in my life. 

Time goes slowly in the heat of a fever. The hours limp by in a fog of exhaustion, sticky with sweat and liquid Tylenol.  I count the hours, the long ones that lay stretched out before us on day three of a sick baby.  How to pass the time, when this little one needs only to be held and be held some more?  The fever radiates from his body and in my sleep-thirsty mind I feel I can see the heat around him like a halo, like a mirage.

It has been years since I was here, the rocking and soothing and comforting punctuated by down-time not nearly long enough to knit this raveling care-sweater.  There are days of mothering that seem to do that, to pull the yarn a stitch at a time just faster than you can knit it back.  Nights that pull you, dream-like, cribside for the hundredth time and wondering when, how you will ever catch up.

I have an agenda in my mind, a list of things to do, of things that I feel are my right.  The right to a night of sleep, to a cup of coffee sipped still-hot and uninterrupted, the right to type a small collection of words in one sitting, the right to take a shower before lunch.  I feel these are needs.  I feel I have earned them. I have come to expect them.

Frustration is what happens when my agenda knocks hard against truth.

The truth is, my agenda is not as urgent as I think it is.  The truth is, it will all wait.  The truth is, this is where we are tested;  in the furnace of a fevered infant, the toddler up all night teething, the sobbing child whose crisis happens five minutes before your important meeting. To raise another human being, we pull pieces of ourselves away; we line this nest with feathers plucked from our own breast and it is this softness that lines the souls of our children, forms a barrier between them and the sharp edges of the world.  This is not martyrdom, nor an exceptional act of great mercy.  This is simply a part of the gift (click to Tweet).  There is no embracing the beauty of this without also embracing the pain of it.  It is not the other side of the coin or the price that must be paid for the happy times, it is simply and completely one with love, an integral part of the whole.

And so today I will hold and I will rock.  I will watch the layer of clutter collect on the table and the dishes pile in the sink, I will cancel my plans for this day and surrender to the plans of one mightier than I, one who knows what sacrifice really means, one whose plans are better than my own small agenda.  I will feel the heat of this small body and know that only by submitting to this furnace will I experience the whole refining of something more precious than a few hours of sleep, a clean house, another chapter written or read.  I will remind myself that what I consider urgent will look entirely different in time, because time will pass too quickly through your fingers if you don’t live it…all of it…intentionally and with thanksgiving.

There is value and beauty in this, too:  We sit on the porch  swing, to catch what we can of the summer breeze. I smooth cool water over fevered brow, feel the heat and weight of his small body against my chest.  He sighs shuddery into my shoulder, eyes half closed.  We rock there, embracing the heat of this passing moment.

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