Tuesday, October 17, 2006
In about three hours or so my son will celebrate his two month birthday–which makes me officially a mother (in womb and out) for about 11 months or so. The little guy is lying on the bed next to me at the moment blissfully ignorant of his looming two-month-old check-up, where he will be stuck (after much deliberation on my part) with a variety of needles for his first round vaccinations. I’ll talk more about him later--my main point right now is introducing this blog.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, a favorite theologian of mine, makes much of the mother’s smile. At birth an infant can see only about 6 to 8 inches, which happens to be the distance from the breast where he nurses to his mother’s face. All that encompasses the mother’s nurturing as well as the actual, physical smile itself are the child’s first indications that his existence, his very being, is good. To simplify much of Balthasar’s writings, essentially what this means is that a mother lays the first building blocks for the child’s realization that his existence is a good and great gift for which he cannot claim responsibility; a gift from others; a gift from an Other who is God. Only upon realizing this can the child properly respond with joyful gratitude, making a gift of himself to others and to God.
I must admit that when I learned this in my Master’s classes last year, this sounded really good in a romantic, oh-of-course-how-could-it-be-otherwise sort of way. But when I started really learning it–when my son was born–I realized what a hefty charge this is for mothers everywhere! To maintain a “smile”–not a superficial grin but a deeply ingrained sense of peace and joy–and to transmit this to my son can be difficult when one struggles through the challenges of every day, be they large or small. I’ve decided in pursuit of this mother’s smile I will record here those random moments that cause me to smile, to rejoice, or to give a quiet thanks to God, as writing them down will help me to remember them and perhaps provide a tiny source of amusement or joy for any of my readers! I admit many of these moments will probably have to do with my son considering that he’s the focus of most of my attention these days, but I will venture into other topics as they wander into my mind.