I have “banana hair”, and I couldn’t be happier. Tonight, our daughter was so excited to give me a hug that she was literally shaking. I knelt down to her level with my arms out and she squealed and ran toward me. In her excitement, she forgot to put down the banana that she had been eating, and it ended up mashed into the back of my hair and neck.
I have received the gift of being able to find the “bless in the mess”, thanks to the miracle that is Willow Mei. From the mess of daily nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (which assured me of Willow’s continued presence right up until the day she was born), to the mess of experiencing hours of solid screaming (when she finally had the energy to find her voice after being too weak to open her eyes or cry), to the mess of waste products streaming out of multiple orifices simultaneously (proving that she was finally taking in enough nutrition to eliminate appropriately after three weeks of being unable to eat properly after birth), she’s given me reasons to find joy in all of the little things. These things that others may take for granted or even possibly resent when they are happening, but may look back upon with a certain degree of fondness one day. Like many of my silent sorority sisters who have been lucky enough to graduate from spending years praying for a child to finally having a living, breathing miracle, I don’t have the luxury of taking any of this for granted. Perhaps one of the most precious gems in parenting after infertility and loss is that I don’t have to wait for “one day” to look back and feel love and gratitude for the messes, big and small. I can and do appreciate it all now.
I remember working in a childcare centre where a little boy in my group was working in the sensory bin. He looked up to see his mommy entering the classroom and broke out into a huge smile. He toddled toward her, arms outstretched, with a look of pure joy on his face. He reached his mommy and grabbed her around her calves, getting the mucky sensory bin material all over her legs. She recoiled, disgusted by the material that had been lovingly deposited on her legs. The little boy began to wail, likely upset by both his mother’s unexpected and sudden movement away from him as well as by the expression on her face. The mom wasn’t trying to upset or hurt the boy in any way. She was just grossed out by the yucky contents of the sensory bin being smeared on her. Who wouldn’t be? We were able to clean everyone up and dry the boy’s tears, and everyone eventually went home happy. It was a small moment that left a big impression on me, as it made me think about how our automatic reactions might be perceived by children. If we string together enough of these small moments we can make a big impact on a child’s self-image.
With practice, we can be mindful of our reactions and of the messages we are sending to children with our body language and our words. When I change Willow’s diaper after she has accidentally eaten a dairy product at daycare, what does my face look like as I register the sensory explosion before me? What words am I choosing to use as I speak with her during the change? When Willow helps me to tidy the kitchen after dinner by dumping the dirty cat food dishes into my drawer of freshly washed and folded kitchen linens, what does my body language communicate to her?
So… when I became the unwitting victim of a rogue banana, I giggled. I held our little girl tighter for just a minute, kissed her sticky little toddler cheeks, and let her know with my words and my body that I was just as happy to see her as she was to see me.
Love is a drive-by fruiting.