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William is now thirteen months old. We’re out of the newborn stage, thank the Lord. If there’s one thing I now know for sure about myself, it is that I am not a “baby person.” The cuddling is nice, I suppose, but a) William rarely cuddled and b) I like talking with my children more than cuddling with them anyway.
I also firmly believe that my images of newborns are mythical ones. Food, for instance. I always assumed that babies nurse instantly and easily. Not so. By all accounts, my kids latched on well, and it still involved tears and sweat and took an incredible amount of time. Sleep. Another basic human need that is neither natural or easy. It took us a good eight months for William to sleep through the night, and I’m certainly not alone in that. Communication, another basic human need. And at first, only possible through shrieks and grunts.
We’ve finally gotten to the stage where William can express himself, at least somewhat. He has a few words: “kitty!” as he scampers after our cat, “poo poo” when I’m changing his diaper, “ball” and “book” and so forth. He has signs for phone, his favorite toy, more, food, drink. And he says, “Night Night” and actually goes to sleep, most of the time.
It’s all made me think about how hard it is to be a newborn. And then it’s made me wonder about the Biblical language about being “born again” (John 3) or being a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5). Did Jesus and Paul know what they were talking about? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they did, which means they knew that being born again–born on a spiritual level, born into a permanent and eternal relationship with God–would be exhilarating and irrevocable and incredibly hard and messy and slow at the same time.
I’ve been a Christian for at least half my life now, maybe more. I don’t know if that means I’m a spiritual teenager, or if the analogy breaks down at a certain point. I do know this. As a parent, it is my job, as I tell Penny and William over and over again, to teach them how to live. The basics: eating and sleeping and staying safe (still working on all three, note William’s five stitches of last week). And eventually, the more abstract work of relationships and communication. Of love. I get exasperated, but more so, I feel immense pride every time they take a tiny step forward.
When William eats yogurt and gets one spoonful into his mouth instead of on his pajamas.
When Penny sidles up to her dad and asks, “How’s work?”
When she balances on one leg.
When he sits down, per my command, in the bath, and then claps for himself.
I suspect that the reason God is called Father so often in the Bible is because He feels the same way. An intense desire to teach us the way to live that is good. And intense pride and joy in our most miniscule accomplishments.