It’s all my children’s fault. I blame them. One day I could choose when to eat, where to go, what to wear and who to think about.
Then I gave birth.
Twenty years ago a shriveled little person blasted away at my self-centric solar system. To put it another way, I was cataclysmically displaced from being the sun in my own planetary dance to being just a large, chronically tired, spit-up covered planet lumbering around a tiny ball of incredibly powerful flesh. The magnetic pull this child possessed was mind-boggling . Life was now about her and no longer about me. Living from this new vantage point took, shall we say, some adjustment.
A few weeks after the birth of our first child, my mother came to stay with her while my husband and I escaped for a badly needed date. We had done nothing but minister to our extremely colicky newborn ever since we arrived home from the hospital, and, man, did we need a breather. I was excited for the fresh air and change of scenery that a walk in the park and a movie would bring.
My husband and I did indeed have a lovely walk in the park that day, though we talked of nothing but the baby. Then while sitting in the movie theater watching the The Sandlot, that Mighty Little Sun’s indomitable gravitational pull started to engage. My thoughts kept turning toward home. Was she crying for us? I wondered. Was she hungry? I worried. What if I didn’t leave enough milk to satisfy her? What if my mother doesn’t hold her correctly? What if she won’t take a nap? Is she wondering where I am? Does she feel I’ve abandoned her?
And round and round I orbited.
From almost the moment the movie began, I paid little attention to the scenes before me and instead sat in the dark worrying. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t focus on the movie for more than sixty seconds without thinking about that child. Finally, after staring at the screen for maybe thirty minutes, with no clue about what has happening in the story, I gave up trying to watch the movie and thought, instead, about this crazy new gig called parenthood. Everything was so different now. Heck, just a few months ago, I had sat in this very same theater and enjoyed a movie with ease; I thought about nothing but what was being projected before me and how much popcorn was left in the tub. But now I can’t do that. What’s wrong with me?!? Can I no longer go anywhere or do anything without my child’s well-being following me like a planetary moon? Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life?
I knew in my heart the answer was yes – this was the way it would be. Forever. And just to prove it, twenty years later I still worry about this same child (who is now an adult) when she drives her little tin-can of a car down those ice-covered, Midwestern, wintry highways; and when I am out-of-town I wonder what she is doing back at home and if she’s okay. Her gravitational pull is still strong. And now there are three other suns tugging me equally hard into their orbits as well.
I have learned many lessons since those early years of parenting, but during that afternoon in the movie theater I learned two of the biggest: one, that my life would never be the same again and, two, that my self-centered lifestyle would have to go. I had read about it many times in the Bible – all that “giving up your life for others” stuff. But it was one thing to read about it and another thing to put it into action. Twenty years later, I am still adjusting to life as a planet and not a sun. Maybe one of these rotational cycles I’ll get it.
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is; that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”