To My Baby Boy: On Hands

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You need to know that I am somewhat cynical in the face of sentiment. I went through my dramatic teenage years and felt sentimental about almost everything. Life changes–even good ones–are hard for me, so I decided to stop being so sentimental. But every so often, it catches me by surprise.

Like when we first found out you were a boy. It was Valentine’s Day of last year. We took the DVD of the ultrasound home, and I couldn’t stop watching it over and over. “My baby. My son.” In that moment, as I saw your little face while still inside me, a wedding flashed before me. A son means one day I will step back. A son means there may one day be another woman he loves more. And though it is as it should be, the thought took my breath away for a moment.

And then the other afternoon it happened again. We were napping on the bed, and I opened my eyes and glimpsed your hand lying on your stomach. And all of a sudden, instead of the chubby baby hand, I saw the hand of a man.

I heard somewhere recently that we often remember people by what they did with their hands. In an age where hands are more often than not swiping through a screen or typing on a keyboard, I still consider my strongest memory of my grandmother to be her hands, knotted by arthritis, rubbing my back as I slept on her lap. I think of my mom, her hands busy making bread. I think of my dad, spraying weed killer on the weeds outside and running the electric mower. My sister’s hands are often busy painting or making something beautiful. My brother’s hands are often working with engines and motors, creating something new. You can tell a lot about someone by what they do with their hands.

I always hated my own hands. Too much skin around the knuckles, cracked and bleeding all winter, and covered in eczema until I was in college. I joked (half serious) that if I never got married, it would be because of my ugly hands.

But I think of first time your dad grabbed my hand inside his huge one during an orchestra performance–the warmth and thrill of new love. I think of the ring he put on my finger one July day and the one I put on his less than a year later, surrounded by our family and friends. I remember the joy of glimpsing that ring on his finger for weeks right after we were married, thinking with delight, “He’s mine!”

I catch glimpses of my hands, busy all day long as I care for you. I change your diapers and cook food and wash dishes and vacuum and fold laundry over and over. I turn the pages of books, I pat your belly while you sleep, and I wipe tears off your cheek when you get overtired.

But the best is how you play with my hand while I feed you. You want it to be devoted solely to you, so I can’t read or eat very easily anymore. You love when I intertwine our fingers. You delicately touch each of my fingers and rhythmically open and close your hand.

That sweet little baby hand–already looking too much like a toddler hand. Thinning out too quickly, reaching for things, perfecting your grasp. And one of the hardest things you are learning is letting go of objects so they go where you want them to.

Letting go is what I struggle with too. I love that you are my baby; I love how much you need me and how much you adore me. I love that you could spend all day being carried around and read to and sung to.

But that afternoon when I looked at those precious hands, for a second, I saw the hands of a man who I hope will turn out like his dad– strong, yet tender and gentle. I hope they will one day create things and fix things and cradle babies.

And I pray for those hands. I pray that they will belong to a man who works hard and diligently and finds delight in his work. I pray that they will be hands of a man who dreams big and seeks justice and loves mercy. I pray that they will be hand of a man who loves fiercely and freely, who gives generously, and who soothes tenderly. I pray that you will live up to your name–a strong-willed warrior, fighting for what is good and right and true, using those hands to bless others.

I pray that you will be patient and gentle but wise and strong. I pray that you will use your hands for good and not for evil. I pray that you will use them to bring peace and light and hope.

It was just a flash the other day–a flash of sentiment in the face of time’s speed. But it reminded me again to pray for you–for the baby of those sweet, soft hands. Most importantly, I pray that your hands will be constantly folded in prayer and lifted in praise to the One who has engraved you on the palm of His hands.

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