Ten years ago our first son entered the world. It was a blazing hot September in New Orleans and I was REALLY over carrying an extra human. I was in the middle of graduate school and that only added an extra layer to my extreme exhaustion. Elliott should definitely receive an honorary Masters in Missiology, as he peacefully kicked and squirmed his way through many classes in the comfort of my expanding belly. Calvin and I had been married about six months when I experienced the classic morning sickness symptoms and realized our 5-year-plan was definitely going to include a baby.
We headed in to Tulane the evening of the 24th and after 26ish hours of labor our very blue baby was born. I remember my joy turning into just a bit of panic as they worked on him; the cord had been tightly wound around his neck. The nurses were quick but the minutes seemed like years as we waited to hear those classic cries. They came… and a few minutes later a very wrinkly little man-baby was placed in my arms. I felt, in that moment, like I had perhaps given the world my best. I had carried and pushed forth a gift that would make the world just a little better, at least those were my hopes. Moms, I’m certain we should all feel that way about our precious cargo.
His legs were skinny and long. I compared them to an organic chicken. I’m not sure, at this moment, that the comparison is correct but that was my comment. He was small but lean and long and just the tiniest little guy in our arms. His hair was jet black and and very full. It stuck up everywhere and garnered him quite a bit of attention.
We stayed in our hospital room for another night, soaking up his sweetness, and then headed home to our small apartment on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
I laid him down in his crib surrounded by the hundreds of tiny bubbles and fish that I hand-painted on the walls. And within five minutes Calvin and I realized that this sweet baby of ours was not going to lay, sleep or be alone for a very long time. In fact… if he was not nursing or held he was quite the unhappy baby. There was no parenting book that could have prepared us for the level of “I need my parents” that Elliott James brought to the table. There were those who called him spoiled, but in my heart I knew that certain littles just need a little more physical contact than others. And so we held and bounced and baby-wore, before it was cool. And I knew we were doing the right thing. However, this determined baby decided that at seven-months-old climbing his crib rail was the perfect way to seek us out in the night. Once he discovered this new ability he continued to climb up and on top of the rail, only to dangle in peril and cry until we rescued him. It only took a few times for us to decide, for good, that he was no longer a candidate for the crib life. After all our little seminary apartment boasted linoleum floors laid over concrete. One fall would spell disaster for a small one.
I believe that he probably smiled smugly, knowing he had chosen a path that led to his desires… being super close to mom and dad all day and all night.
As little boys do, he grew and grew and grew. I’ve delighted watching this transformation over the years. Seeing his flaws, merits and internal struggles manifest themselves as his physical body stretched and grew strong.
Ten years old. Two digits now. He has the look of a young man, with careful adjustments spent in front of the mirror… combing his hair just so. And yet if I look carefully I still see the wrinkled man-baby who was handed to me ten years ago.
I don’t have plans for him. Those are his to make. He has callings to respond to and a great God to serve. His path is his own. Truly, I’m waiting and praying for the man he is becoming. I’m discipling and smacking my head. I’m hugging, and holding tight and I’m sneaking in to his room in the late hours to absorb him while he’s here with us. Above all I’m hoping beyond hope that we are equipping him to be a gift to the world that seems darker by the hour.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.