A few nights ago I was giving Baby Girl a bath. I do it every night before reading to her and rocking her to sleep. And although sometimes I can’t help but view bathtime as a chore, every night I’m more keenly aware that these moments are fleeting. I already have phenomenally fewer of them with Little Drummer Boy and Bug. There was nothing particularly special about this night, a Tuesday like any other one. But somehow, this bathtime inspired all-too-common questions. As I sat beside the tub, responding to her squeals, I could feel it rising.
Baby Girl is most often filled with giggles and energy for her bath. When I’m not distracted by the rush of the day and the task list of bedtime routines, I watch her. I see her carefree little body standing there too busy to sit in the bath water. Her pudgy tummy and pudgy cheeks, her hands all in motion and eyes full of light, she laughingly fills a cup with the water’s flow and pours it back into the tub for the simple pleasure of seeing the bubbles. I can’t help but enjoy the simple pleasure of her wonderment myself.
On this Tuesday, she accompanied her water play with talk of Frosty the Snowman. I guess she’s been reading (or singing) about him at daycare and her new snowman washcloth inspired the recollection. For Baby Girl, all snowmen are Frosty. All baths are for bubbling water. In these moments, I’m amazed at the simplicity life boils down to in a two-year-old world. Her splashing and squeals pierced the sounds of brother car chases and computer clicks just a room away. Their own imaginations hard at work awaiting their turn with the suds. Sitting on my heels beside the tub, I matched her height, and I could look straight into her uncontained eyes. They were completely oblivious to me, and yet they gripped me. With a soapy washcloth in hand I could feel the pull of that required moment of whisking her away from her water experiment and on to more practical cleanliness. But even though the night was getting away from me, I just sat and watched her.
In that tug between my own time constraints and her wonder-full display, that’s when I felt it rising. That’s when the tears began to well. I felt it overtaking me. That odd mixture of overwhelming love and wonder mixed with second-guessing and fear. This little child before me in her innocent playfulness. This precious one who without even realizing it had placed her whole world on my shoulders. And thereby captured my lifelong gaze.
And so the fear and self-doubt rise in proportion to the love.
Can I do it? I ask myself.
Can I give them what they need? What they deserve?
Can I hold their hearts? Until they grow the passion to do it themselves.
Can I mold their whims and nurture their gifts?
Can I provide for them?
Will I be able to fund their warmth and their table and their opportunity?
What if I can’t?
What if I mess up?
What if I get side-tracked and miss something?
Can I really do this?
I sat beside the tub and watched her. And cried. I can do that with Baby Girl. She’s so young that my tears are blissfully invisible to her, unlike the array of questions they would produce with her brothers. I took it all in. The carefree spirit. The joyful eyes. The concentrated movements. Filling the cup. Pouring it out. Squealing. Giggling.
The more I sat, the more I wondered. How can I shield them from the worries of living and providing? How do I keep it from creeping in when their only concerns are whose turn it is to choose a movie and how long they get to make bubbles in the bath water? How can I give them that privilege of childhood and ignorance? That sweet and oblivious face standing there by the faucet where the whole world is filling the cup and pouring it out. How can I give them everything I want them to have? How can I make their worlds safe and full and at peace all at the same time?
It’s in moments like this one that I realize what she’s teaching me. That moments of wondering find their rest in moments of wonder. The carefree attention that simplicity provides. The place of wonder she shows me in filling the cup and pouring it out. The sheer amazement of something as basic as a bathtub full of water seen through the clear blue depth of a two-year-old’s eyes. When I stop myself and my rampant thinking–when I let go–in that place of wonder, I am master rather than slave to the onslaught of worry and concern and self-doubt.
So, I look at her. I look at them. Their beauty. Their exuberance. Their joy. Their wonder. And I know.
If I can just keep my eyes here.
If I can just focus here.
We’ll be ok.