For me, I know of no greater love than the one for my Savior, followed closely by the one for my husband. But I now know a new love. A love completely different from the rest - the love of a mother for her child. There's a weight to it that I've never known before. It is intense and wonderful and heavy. It is joyful, crushing and wearying.
When I look at my son, I feel a longing, a pressure - and yes, a burden - to raise him well. Lately I've found myself struggling through some parenting issues: problems with my nursing supply, fear of Eli having a flat head, and frustrations over cloth diapers (I'll explain this one later). Like any parent, I only want what's best for Eli and I've found myself worrying and losing sleep over the fear of switching to formula, needing a helmet for his head, and wanting to sell my entire cloth stash. I felt like a failure, that I had somehow missed clues along the way that my supply was drying up, that I must have left Eli on his back too much and therefore his head shape was my fault, and I wasn't trying hard enough to make cloth work.
My fears seemed odd, given the fact that when I look at other mothers, I feel absolutely no judgement when they switch to formula or they use disposables - and I know that these days, with babies sleeping on their backs, helmets are often unavoidable. I don't have a problem judging other mothers, I have a problem with judging myself. As I was having a complete meltdown in the car last week with my husband, he asked me, "Don't you always say that what matters is how we raise Eli's heart?" While I wailed something about how, "he'll never find a wife someday if we don't fix his flat head," I knew deep down Mike was right.
I love Eli so much my heart literally hurts when I think about it. I do want what's best for him - even in the little things - but what matters is the one big thing: his heart. What will his heart love? What will capture it? What will drive it? What will consume it?
My husband and I pray for Eli's heart every day. That it will be tender and kind, compassionate and teachable. That it would be brave and courageous, adventurous and unabashed. Malleable in the the small things, yet firm in the big. That he will grow up to have a heart that above all else loves the Lord.
When I look at the big picture, I don't care what Eli eats or wears. I don't care if he drinks formula or breast milk, eats entirely organic or has Kraft mac and cheese three times a day. I don't care if he needs a helmet or wears mismatched clothes. I don't care if he is a science fair geek, a bookworm or the school jock. I don't care.
It is his heart that matters. Yet the weight of my dreams for Eli's heart seem overwhelming. Impossible. Unattainable. As his mother, I know I will have one of the greatest influences over the desires of his heart. Intentionally or unintentionally, I will help shape it. Teaching him about the world, showing him what is good, what is not. What is worthwhile, what is worthless. What is lovable and what is unlovable.
I know it will be by God's grace that I will be able to do any of this at all. Ultimately, I will fail Eli. I am human and a sinner. I hate thinking about how I will fail him - in fact - I'm sure I already have. But I find comfort in knowing that Eli's heart is truly not in my hands. It is in God's. And someday, Eli - not me - will choose to keep it there or not. I am training him today, yes, even as a little baby, so that someday when he faces choices that I cannot make for him, I can be confident that I have prepared him as best I could to choose what is right.
Thinking through this helps me keep my focus, wards of the harsh judgement of myself, and reminds me of what matters. I will fail Eli, but I am not a failure. I love him and the burden to raise his heart well is one I ultimately find joy in. It brings me to tears when I think about the unknown ahead. They are heavy, weighty tears, but heavy with the hope and promise that by God's grace, my love for my son will help raise a heart that loves what is right.