the pitter-patter

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Claire on 19 July 2019 at 7:49 am

    Thank you for the reminder that “mourning is meant for grief, not life”. This is something I have struggled with since my son was a newborn. I mourned every time he outgrew a diaper or clothing size, every time he outgrew a toy. I struggle to get rid of toys and mementos. I look at pictures of him from a few years ago and marvel at how little he was, but at the time I thought he was so big and was nostalgic for the days when he was smaller. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy each stage he’s in, but I want to grasp on to each stage and hold it tight so it won’t end too soon. (Spoiler alert, I’m not having much luck with that!). I don’t know if I struggle more because he’s my only (living) child, but I know I’m not doing myself any favors by lamenting how fast his childhood is going.

  2. Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde on 19 July 2019 at 8:40 am

    Bringing blogging back. ❤️

  3. Mamie on 19 July 2019 at 10:05 am

    “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.”

    I love this. My youngest is 2.5 yrs old and I’m struggling lately with him growing older, especially as we celebrate his two siblings’ birthdays this weekend. My husband and I have prayed and discussed and prayed some more, deciding that it’s not feasible for us to try for another for a variety of reasons. I pray to God for strength to accept this and also that His will be done, for how do we truly know our decision is His will? In time, I suppose. God’s time Thank you for the solidarity, and prayers for you and your family!

  4. Val S. on 19 July 2019 at 10:08 am

    I’m not on IG (photographer though I may be). Essays are better for the soul anyway.

    Having raised at least twenty children, none of them mine, all of them gone? The weirdest phase is when toddlers simply want to try on everybody’s shoes constantly. I once lived with a family of seven, and their littlest could go ALL DAY with the communal shoe box.

    Write on!

  5. Andrea Rentz on 19 July 2019 at 1:32 pm

    SO beautiful! So glad you brought the blog back.

  6. Kristin Heider on 19 July 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Beautiful. And I love the old-fashioned blog. Bring it back, baby.

  7. Samantha Stephenson on 19 July 2019 at 11:04 pm

    That is heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself and your journey with all of us!

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