Soft Touch

When the little one yanked her older sister’s hair, I pulled her away, chiding, “No, you can’t do that.” Baby crumpled to the carpet in tears, utterly devastated. I let her be, but she continued to sob. Finally, I gathered her into my arms and stepped outside onto the veranda. Instantly, she quieted, but she continued to shudder every few moments with those hiccups that mean the child has indeed been utterly devastated. With her head resting against my shoulder, we were quiet together. I did not stroke her hair or coo soothing words—I simply swayed gently from side to side. This little one, who is rarely still long enough to be cuddled, did not push away or straighten her body.

In the ebbing sunlight, I experienced the power of the maternal heart—that soft touch that no man can give quite like a woman can. Baby is not my own, not flesh of my flesh, but in that moment, I could almost believe she was.

After a few minutes, I walked to the edge of the veranda, sat, and held her in my lap. We gazed out at the woods, the dimpled snow, the ravens that flapped above the treetops to flash their wings against the pale blue sky. Still, I made no sound. And she too remained quiet, dark lashes blinking, blinking, as she looked about, taking in the melting world. Bare toes warmed by the sun, she leaned against my arms, studying the water drip-dripping from the downspout into the flattened grass below our feet.

Eventually she rose from my lap and toddled to the weathered steps where we again sat, only this time to chuck crystalline snow as far as we could (not far), our fingers turning red. If a robin whipped by, or a raven cried from the highest branch, we paused to study it. A breeze did not stir. But the draw toward motherhood was indeed stirring in my soul.

Often I feel wholly inadequate to give what a child needs . . . but it is in those moments that, if I acknowledge my inadequacy and surrender, He who knows the childlike heart best rises up in me—and I am able to give what I don’t have. I can cradle with His arms. Yes, I think that must be how a parent loves, day after day, year after year.

I pray I will one day find myself sitting on my own veranda, contemplating simple beauty with my little one.

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