If it’s possible for one-year-olds to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, mine definitely did a few early mornings ago. After a while of our son whining to leave the bedroom, my husband carried Ellis down the steep, wooden staircase to our kitchen as I followed right behind them. My son grew impatient while his Papa quickly whisked up some scrambled eggs, then ended up crying moments after they ended up on his plate because he could only manage to shovel bites into his mouth that were too big for him to swallow. He cried again when I suggested that he use his fingers instead of the fork I had given him, not willing to let his prized silverware out of his hand.
His tears kept flowing a few minutes later when my husband offered him a bite of his slice of toast, motioning frustratedly that he wanted bite-sized pieces of it on his plate instead. After I made him his own, he cried because he unexpectedly wanted something else on it than his usual favorite. He cried when I wouldn’t allow him to eat cream cheese directly from the container. And he cried for other reasons his Papa and I couldn’t quite figure out — we simply looked at our son sympathetically as we exchanged glances that said we were shrugging our shoulders inside.
My son peered up at me with tears in his eyes after seeming to have given up on breakfast altogether and stretched out his sticky, little hand to snatch my own. He yanked my arm towards his face and before I knew what was happening, he was pressing my hand against his cheek smeared with jam and leaning his head into my palm. Something inside me came to an abrupt halt in that moment, stunned to a degree as my son’s message rang loud and clear, “Momma, I need you to comfort me!”
His whimpering slowed, and I watched his countenance shift before even ten seconds had passed. As he let go of my hand, it seemed as if he had filled up on the tenderness and loving support he required in order to muster up the strength he needed to continue with his day.
I spent the entire day after breakfast wondering when I last sought comfort with such zeal. I tried hard to remember the last time I allowed myself to lean into someone’s care and support without feelings of inadequacy and defeat arising.
It reminds me of the adventure Ellis and I recently went on together to visit our family on the other side of the world. The first time we used the restroom on the plane, we were both astonished by the loud noise that seemed to explode from the toilet when it was flushed. The next time we went, I warned my son that the startling sound was about to resound again and offered my shoulder for him to rest his head on so I could put my hand over his other ear. He willingly did so then and every other time we visited the tiny restroom.
He hasn’t forgotten this practice even now that a month has passed since we returned to our home; he now has a habit of running and catapulting himself into my arms so he can bury his head into my chest when a loud noise causes him discomfort. I decided to teach my little boy that he can use his own hands to block the sounds that bother him by putting them over his ears, but he still prefers the original way best.
He has no fear of dependency, even though he is growing more and more capable of independence with each day that passes.
Another thing expanding day by day is my sixteen-month-old’s vocabulary, for which I am very thankful. It’s making life much easier to know which words my son is saying instead of attempting to decode his grunts of frustration.
One word I hear from him constantly is, “See!” Every time we’re in the kitchen and I’m preparing food on the counter or the stove, he lifts his arms and bounces his legs until I pick him up and allow him to observe whatever magic is happening above his eye-level. It’s causing this Momma to get creative when I need to use both hands — I get started on lunch much earlier than I otherwise would so my son can “help me” chop veggies at the kitchen table.
While some might view it as being needy, I must admit that I am quite impressed by way my son shamelessly depends on me. He so naturally reaches out, reaches up, flings himself into my arms with confidence.
I‘ve started to wonder when we lose the instinct to seek comfort or help from others and instead, bite our tongue, grit our teeth and “man up” for fear of coming across as childish or weak. I ask myself when it starts to require humble courage to verbalize the things we lack, or when the expectation arises for us to be capable of doing everything on our own.
I’ve come to the conclusion that “getting your life/act together” is often done best after burying your head in someone’s loving embrace. That expressing our needs need not be done with our tails between our legs, but rather in the way our children model effortlessly — with the expectation that we will be met with nothing but comfort and warmth.
What the world may describe as weakness might just be the very place in which resilience is born. The place from which we are truly able to draw strength. And in that, I see nothing but beautiful, vulnerable, courageous power.