Dear Beautiful Girl –
There is a war on in the backseat of the car.
This week, you have declared your shoes and socks the enemy, and I am the reluctant keeper of the peace. You watch those pesky socks, stalk them, and wait patiently for the moment the vibrating engine signals my complete and total inability to intervene, at which long-anticipated point you launch your attack. Socks and shoes are no match for you – you can bare those precious toes in mere seconds, before we’ve left the driveway or even shifted into gear. There is no disguising your pride.
It isn’t the most convenient war, although convenience is a quality very rarely attributed to war of any kind. It’s November in Oregon, and too cold for bare baby toes, which tasks peacekeeper me with sock and shoe replacement duty each and every time I remove you from the car. This is not a war that lends itself to hurried errands or the stress of the season or rainy parking lot unloadings. My instinct is to scold and tsk-tsk at you in the rear view mirror in the name of time and sanity and the whole principle of the thing.
When I open the door to find you barefooted for the eighth time today, I contort my tired face into feigned surprise. “Who took the socks off this baby? Whose toes are these?” I sing-song, tickling and counting and celebrating the look of pure, perfect joy on your most precious face. We giggle as we wrestle you back into socks and shoes and out of carseat buckles and into one of those fantastic hugs you’ve recently mastered, and something in the day shifts and brightens and becomes somehow more.
This is the endless effort of parenting, this mustering of energy and enthusiasm and will, and I struggle every time I round the back of the car to retrieve you. My body is tired, my mind is tired, but when I can find it – that little bit of spark, that last bit of reach, the presence of mind to give you a moment that will belong to us always and always – we win the battle. We win the war. And your joy is my joy and we are better for it. This is how our days are made.
Such a small moment, the quietest miracle.
This is the diligent practice of gratitude, the action of thanksgiving, the cultivation of worship. This is the God-given strength that sustains us, the promise that our returning again and again to praise will transform and embrace and become us. This is the subversive magical warfare that mends us, calls us to ourselves and each other and something huge and holy. When my mind is tired and my body is aching and I am out of everything I had to give to you, when in that moment I lean into promise and give just a little bit more – we are carried, you and I, into something lovely and worth it and wonderful. And I am thankful, so thankful, so thankful, so glad.
There is a war on in the backseat of the car, and inside of your imperfect mama, every day, all the time. But you are more worth fighting for than just about anything, and gratitude is the gift I can give you, and He will carry us home.
And everybody knows I love your toes.