Their feet crush me.
Tiny toes curling, ancient reflex. Baby socks lost in the dryer like doll clothing. Toddler tiptoes to reach the sink. Preschool slip-ons for circle time. Sport shoes for season after season—cleats, sneakers, boots.
I know their feet intimately. Kiss them at diaper changes, sweet antidote to stink. Bathe them in bubbles and dry them with duck towels. Wrestle on socks and shoes for years and years. Corral each kid and clip twenty nails, fingers and toes. Motherhood in daily details, mundane math, rote routine. But I never remember their shoe sizes; I am always shocked at the store, at their growth.
When we brought our second son home from the hospital, his big brother’s feet startled me. Suddenly giant, boy-ish, behemoth. Overnight they had soared in size. I stared at his feet, disbelieving as he crawled into my lap to get a closer look at the baby. How had he turned into a toddler when I wasn’t looking? Half blessing, half betrayal.
Today he steals my flip flops, kicks them off when I complain. They thud against the wall, and he tosses with confidence: I’ll be as big as you soon.
Bigger, I know.
I don’t fear their growing, don’t bemoan the passage of time. Mourning is meant for grief, not life. The marvel of their becoming is my miracle. I whisper thanks to God for each day they creep sunward, heads inching up toward mine, measuring themselves against me, beaming when I promise they’ll spend most of their lives taller than me.
But I hate when the mudroom pile grows like weeds, wedging the door open or shut with spare pairs. Why can no one put their shoes away, I sigh every mother’s sigh, sliding them into neat slots, the neglected organizer. Still: all these growing kids, all these scattered sizes of shoes. Gratitude for enough.
Did you know that babies born at 24 weeks are barely old enough to survive but still have perfect toes like any baby? Minuscule nails, swirling prints. Did you know that identical twins share the same DNA but have unique finger prints? Toe prints, too? I learned all this. I would rather not know it. I would rather have two more pairs heaped among their brothers’. Instead their footprints grace our mantel. I kissed them one day but never again. Never enough.
Their feet crush me. Running through the house, soles slapping against the floor. Muddy from the garden, wet from the sprinkler, sweaty from practice. Dirty on the couch, stinky from cleats, ticklish everywhere.
I cradle the toddler’s tiny sandals, passed down from three older brothers. Velcro worn, soles scuffed. One day his shoes will have swollen into boats. Today I can hold both his feet in my palm. I want him to stay small, I want him to grow old, I want him to be mine forever, I want to learn how to let him go.
It is enough, it is never enough. The thump of my heart, the pitter patter of their feet.
. . .
Told you I’m bringing blogging back! Go figure, it’s not so hard. Now I don’t have to trim my Instagram posts to fit their box, and what does a writer love more than white space to fill?
If you’re new here, welcome. If you like musings on motherhood, check out my book Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting. If you, too, have a maddening heap of shoes by your back door, solidarity! If your heart is longing for that pitter patter, you are always in my prayers.