Monday, May 5, 2014

Proud Parents (Baby Steps)

A good start, I think.
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My youngest daughter Braylee receives weekly speech and behavioral therapy in our home. Based on her initial evaluation, her therapists work with her toward certain goals, updating me after each visit.

Right now they are encouraging Braylee to speak in longer phrases. Instead of “book, Mommy,” they advocate, “I want the book, Mommy.” The more words she speaks, the better.

And we have seen progress. Over the past several months, Braylee’s spontaneous speech has noticeably expanded. She has shown herself capable of using multi-word phrases, the most common being “Give it to Braylee!” when she sees something she wants. Her conversations with Jonan are more meaningful (and hilarious) as she is better able to engage with him.

And though I am thrilled about the longer phrases, my chest swells with pride over one particular word.

“No.”

The Terrible Twos are partially so named because children learn that two-letter word and use it with reckless abandon. Jonan wasn’t big on “No”—except when asked during my pregnancy, "Are you going to be a good big brother to Braylee?"—but he said it when necessary.

Braylee's speech was often unintelligible before last year, but “No” is easy to decipher. And we never heard it. No shaking heads, stomping feet, or otherwise expressed negation. Eventually I recognized her lack of "No" as a lack of agency. Braylee did not yet see herself as autonomous, a person with opinions and wishes worthy of expression. 

Now at the age of five, with one powerful monosyllabic utterance, Braylee demonstrates her self-awareness and burgeoning self-esteem. It does my heart glad to ask a question and watch her eyes dance as she considers it. Sometimes I don't really need the information; I just love creating opportunities to showcase her progress.

I recently shared my observations with her therapists, and though they applauded her efforts, they didn't quite share my glee, still focused on the multi-word goals. And as I found myself taken aback by their rather clinical enthusiasm, I realized something.

They can never feel as I do about Braylee’s baby steps because Braylee is not their baby.

Their investment in Braylee and pleasure at her success are genuine; we wouldn't be working with them otherwise. But their feelings are rooted in something altogether different, a joy tempered by professional distance. My hopes and happiness where Braylee is concerned are boundless, woven into my very definition and DNA.

Hmmm. This kind of love sounds familiar.

Christians often refer to God as “our heavenly Father.” But do we ever pause to think of that in reverse? That is, do we also think of ourselves as His “babies”? 

In Jeremiah 1:5, He says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,” but do we understand how precious that makes us in His warm, compassionate eyes? Do we realize He eagerly celebrates our baby steps because He handcrafted our feet? 

She chose the nail colors though.
I don’t know where you are on the road to where you’re going, how many people in your life are cheering, jeering, or equally capable of both. But here’s what I do know: right now, wherever you are, God is smiling on you like a proud papa, wildly applauding your progress, however fast or slow it may be.

So bask in His pride and celebrate your baby steps.

It's what Daddy wants.

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