It is one thing to experience motherhood as a daughter. It is another thing entirely to experience it as a “yee ma” (aunt in Cantonese) to your sister’s baby pupski. (I have called Harper “pupski” since she was about a month old. I’m not exactly sure why or where that came from, but it is special and she is a little pupski to me!)
As a yee ma, I have experienced things that I never could have imagined – the crest of a little hairy head before launching into the world, yellow watery poops that smell strangely sweet, alarming dragon noises emerging from a very small child. A whole little body and face transforming every month – thunder thighs and round cheeks, a buddha poop-filled belly when constipated, the teeth of a growing little bitey pirahna, hair now long enough for pigtails! Going from falling asleep in our arms to screaming when put down for naps. Feeling actual relief flood your own body when you celebrate the poops that come after long last (even if they are now kind of gross because of the solid food). Long days, fast weeks.
Mothers are warriors. I knew this before, but I see it more fully now. In a very real way, their lives (and body, and time, and decisions) are no longer only about them. There is a magical expansion of the heart to care for another. Mothers delight in their babies, want the best for them, and their hearts go to battle for their flourishing. They root for their development and celebrate milestones – solid food intake, vocabulary expansion, crawling and walking – even as they quietly mourn the loss of the days when there was only breast milk and incomprehensive dragon noises. I think of my mom bringing three of us into the world and raising us at home, and the amount of strength and tenacity and prayer that went into the countless days of growing us up. Moms should get medals of great honor.
It has been fascinating to follow the development of Harper the baby pupski, and how her introduction to the world is shaping us. Oftentimes it feels like we won’t have the bandwidth to love more (the #nonewfriends movement on social media?), but when we choose to love there is this beautiful expansion of the heart. It looks different for everyone, but it is a steady opening of the heart that is breathtaking in its self-giving love. There is a becoming, an unfolding of sorts, that is sacred. Just when you thought you knew someone so well, all your life? Front row seats to watching family choose love and become more of who they were created to be.
I see that in Kit the mom, Jeff the dad. Kim the yee ma, me the “yee ma weirdo” (it is important to distinguish between me and Kim okay). My mom is now “paw paw” and my dad is “gung gung” (maternal grandma and maternal grandpa in Cantonese). It has been so curious and fun to watch these relationships and new avenues of love unfold.
As our family expands with husbands and children, we are all changing and learning new things. It’s not just Harper the baby, but the adults too are adapting and growing. It feels new and different, clunky and a little confusing sometimes. And just as we are kind to Harper when she falls on her butt after standing up ( “It’s okay chooky you can try again!”), I’m learning to be kind to when mistakes are made and I need to try again.
This past weekend was Harper’s first birthday party and we all came together to celebrate. I was struck by the love Harper is surrounded with that she experiences in being held, in playing with us, in exploring new places while we hold hands as her walking support, in gifts that span from the things she needs (socks and chopstick trainers obviously) to things she loves (an Elmo couch, animal floaty bath toys, an orange), in Kit keeping her to her nap schedule and feeding her, in the prune concentrate she drinks to soften her poops so they’re not little rocks that hurt her when she tries to launch them out of her body. I see the sacrifices (of time, of dream jobs, of sleep, of desire) that Kit and Jeff make for Harper’s care. It is a deep love. It is an embodied love.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” + Matthew 7:9-12
Grateful for this new perspective of “yee ma life” that gives me a real life picture of the love of a parent. It has filled me with gratefulness for parents who love us so well through the years, and has filled me with wonder to think about God the Father. Delighting in us, fighting for us, savoring communion with us. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Wow. That is amazing. Maybe I am a growing-up grown up pupski in the Father’s eyes.