I learned something today from my daughter, or rather from taking care of my daughter. Rosalie Jayne is a sweet, sweet little 5 week old girl who seems generally very mild mannered and happy to be happy when everything is going smoothly. However, when she’s got some bad gas or an irritated bum (by the way Irritated Bum is the name of my new emo band [tips hat to Paul and Storm]) she has no problem demonstrating the quality of the work Katie did in developing her lungs in utero. Most days so far we’ve been able to run through the litany of food, diaper, hold her, rock her, walk her and fairly quickly she will calm right down and be as peaceful and beautiful as only a happy infant can be. Some days, though, we just haven’t been able to make her feel better no matter what we do and she is absolutely inconsolable for several minutes at a time. (Note: I have heard stories from several parents that have helped me to realize just how fortunate we are that her tough spells are still measurable in minutes.) However long, every time that she cries out it feels like someone is core drilling through my guts and setting off a fire alarm in my skull.
I adore my daughter. I am thoroughly and rapturously wrapped around every finger on her cute little hands. But I would be lying to you if I said I never got frustrated with her or hurt or afraid (which leads to the Dark Side) when she wails, especially in those times that we are trying so hard to figure out what is causing her distress so that we can fix it. When I reflect on the moments of frustration or fear I see clearly the they are rooted, as you might expect, in selfishness and helplessness. I try to use those moments to fuel my commitment to growing in those areas, consciously letting go of my daily agenda for the sake of what my family needs and acknowledging that having a baby that cries is not a sign of failure as a parent or as a man. This morning, though, I finally realized why I would feel offended or hurt – feelings that surprised me when they surfaced.
Gratitude. My daughter is incapable of actively showing gratitude. She cannot acknowledge our efforts to comfort her and care for her, she has know means of understanding that we are trying our best. All I wanted during that crying spell was to know that she was grateful for all that we do for her, all that we happily sacrifice for her. I know it will be some time before she develops enough to be able to say thanks and I know that this is an opportunity for me to improve my ability to love by removing the condition of gratitude. But I also see now how important it is to express my thanks to the people in my life who show me love, or compassion or generosity. I want them to know that their actions are thoroughly appreciated, that their efforts on my behalf were successful. I want them to reap the full measure of joy they deserve in giving to me (or to anyone).
If you know someone who loves without the expectation even of thanks, honor them and marvel at the perfection of their love.