Arguments with almost five-month-old babies are very short.
It began with her ridiculously fast-growing fingernails. She’s obviously draining me of all contributing nutrients. After concluding that I’d been scratched enough, I decided to cut her nails. My daughter has gotten used to the process, one I conduct while she’s awake so that I don’t have to depend on deep sleep mode for success. No distractions. Just mummy, baby and clippers.
We made it through the right hand just fine, but by the left hand, ring finger we were melting and by pinky we were in full-out rebellion. From back arching to legs kicking, her body screamed, “I’m done” in concert with her voice. I tried to hold her hand steady but steady was elusive. And no amount of control-hugging was doing any good, even as I pleaded, “We’re allllmost done, Baby, just one more finger.”
She’s not one to fuss or cry unless something is clearly wrong. So I started trying to figure out what it was. Thankfully, it took mere seconds.
It hit me clear as spit-up. Her 90 minute diaper-eat-play routine was swiftly ending and I’d chosen to cap it off with something that requires stillness. Bad move, Mum.
And in that split second thinking, I’d forced myself to answer this: Is one fingernail enough reason to prolong this tired child’s frustration?
It was easy to answer, “Yes,” because I’m in charge and like to win and it was (thankfully) just as easy to counter with, “No,” because I understand where she’s coming from. Tired people, if able, should sleep not manicure. And she’s people, too.
My love for her made me reasonable. That morning, she napped with one nail uncut.
My baby is teaching me things every day, from the simple stuff of smile-medicine to the complex stuff of seeking to understand instead of win.
I’ve been there too often, so sure that I’m right but oh so wrong. I want to win so badly that I refuse to take a moment to think, mere seconds to ask if all this tug of war is worth it. Am I even listening? And where there’s no love, the heart is defiant and the flesh is cold. If I loved those I knock heads with half as much as I love my child, there’s an excellent chance I’d actually listen. Because love can’t be divided. Love is love. Love can’t help but think beyond moments, beyond control, beyond self.
No, this isn’t a call to throwing in the towel, to giving in for the sake of peace. We’ve argued about that before and her desire to be held was overruled by a swaddle or a diaper change or some other thing she needed more than Mumma’s arms. And it’s on me to spend enough time paying attention to my child so that I can take proper stock of the moment and give her or be to her what she needs.
This is a call to living in an incredibly sacrificial way. We don’t get to choose who to love. We do get to pour love out on everyone, from daughters to strangers to bullies to…everyone. We may not all win but it won’t even matter because that won’t be the point.