Some super-human flu knocked me off my feet eight days ago. It felt like an angry 400-pound Tongan linebacker thundered in out of nowhere and–oooof–I’m still flat on my back with a circle of cuckoos chirping around my head. It doesn’t help that I’m eight months pregnant with my fifth child and feeling as comfortable and pretty as a bloated cow tangled in electric fencing. These days my sense of perspective is a fragile little thing made of clear glass. At least it was before that linebacker’s beefy backside crushed it.
After a particularly violent coughing fit this morning I peeled my crying toddler off my back and shook my whining four year old off my legs. Then I gripped either side of my husband’s shirt collar and pulled his face down to mine until our noses were touching. “Listen. To. Me.” More coughing spasms. “I–cough–can’t–more coughing–take this anymore!”
With wide eyes he suggested we take a drive.
“Yay!” the kids yelled, running out into the sunshine.
I waddled along behind, coughing and scowling. It didn’t seem fair that after one of the longest, coldest winters of my life, spring is finally here, and I’m in no state to enjoy it.
I coughed and squirmed uncomfortably in my seat while my fetus–a baby boy–forcefully kicked my ribs.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
My husband shrugged.
It ended up being a short drive through the foothills around our house. We stopped to breathe in some fresh air and stretch our legs. The kids ran off excitedly to explore. I watched heavy gray clouds beginning to rain in the distance. It was pretty as pretty goes when you live in a high mountain desert. There’s never a lot growing here any time of year.
My husband put his arm around me. I admitted to him that after a week stuck at home, it felt good to get out.
Then my seven-year-old daughter ran up to me, grinning, hiding something behind her back.
“For you, Mama,” she said, revealing a small bouquet of blossoms which she excitedly thrust into my hands.
Those words. That smile. That little handful of gathered blooms. It’s a ritual repeated a billion times a year by little children all over the world.
But this was special. After months of cold and death, this was my first bouquet of spring. It’s barely warm enough for the bravest of dandelions to press their heads up through the soil. I’m not even sure where my daughter managed to find them.
I stopped coughing and stared at her little offering. They weren’t roses. Far from it. These were tiny little wayside blossoms. Most people would call them weeds and not give them a second look. But in that moment, they were beautiful to me beyond words.
Just then my four-year-old ran up to me with a small bouquet hidden behind his back. He grinned when he gave it to me. “You’re the bestest, squishiest, loviest mama in the whole world,” he said while hugging my leg.
A few minutes later my two-year-old toddled up to me. He opened his chubby hands. Crushed inside were two tiny yellow blossoms he’d found and picked. “Mama flower,” he said, grinning and shoving them into my hand before running off.
I smiled. You can’t lose your perspective for very long with small children around you. I knew in that moment that any amount of discomfort I’ve endured to bring these little ones into the world was miniscule compared to what they give me.
Children find what is beautiful, what is free, what is accessible to their tiny hands everywhere they go. Rocks and sticks and nests and bugs and flowers. They notice all of it. Slow down enough to listen and they’ll show you a whole magical world that goes unnoticed by grownups. Then they’ll gather the best of it, offering it to you with all their love.
I tucked my four-year-old’s blossoms into my hair. Suddenly, I didn’t feel awkward and big. I was beautiful. I put the rest of the flowers in a little vase on the table when we got home. Instantly he whole house seemed filled with light and spring, even though I still felt horribly sick. My little guy started kicking my ribs. Instead of moaning, I rubbed my bulging middle lovingly. I couldn’t wait to meet him, to show him the world, and then watch in awe as he ran out into it. As soon as he was able, I knew he’d bring me flowers too.
Right now there are wars being fought. Political campaigns are being waged. Murderers and druggies are going on rampages right as I type these words. It’s a crazy world and getting crazier. But I find it terribly comforting to know this–as long as there are flowers of any kind growing on this planet of ours, children will find them, pick them, and present them to their mothers. It’s no small thing. In fact, even on the worst days, it’s all the hope I need.
Thank you for this lovely cameo reminder that being with our children in nature will fix everything.
Congrats on your beautiful little boy, Arianne!! Here’s a link to Still Parenting to see photos of him.
Blessings and magic,