I put her hair in a bun for ballet every Monday. I’ve gotten pretty good at it these days. I only do it once a week for now, but it takes me just a few minutes.
It hurts. It pulls. It pinches. And sometimes I don’t even like dance anyway.
It all comes spilling out of eight-year-old lips on Monday afternoons and it makes me sad. Not because she doesn’t beg to go to ballet. But because my sacrifice for her will never be a mutual thing.
It might be the strangest job of loving in the universe: that of a parent and her child.
We are theirs, always. But they are not truly ours.
It’s this job we say “yes” to, and the love, in the same way, won’t come back to us. It won’t come back to me like I’m giving it. But its what we sign on for! That self-LESS, OTHER-centric love with our babies. We literally give ourselves away and we give away our hearts over and over again without the true expectation that it will be reciprocated in kind.
Oh yes, our children love us.
But those of us who have held a baby in arms knows the love from Parent to Child is different than Child to Parent. We love our parents with our whole souls, but goodness don’t we love our children with a different place of our hearts.
At least in a marriage it’s a two-adult covenant. We stand together and say
We love each other.
For better and worse.
For flu and Hawaii.
But with our babies. Our daughters. Our sons, we simply say I love you. I love you because you are who you are. I love you because you are my gift. And that love may never be returned in the same way. In fact, it most surely won’t.
So I pull ballet buns tight and say I-love-you-dearheart in the middle of a Monday afternoon. She skips away without care and I know that this love may not be truly understood until later.
That I am hers, but she is not really mine.