Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I do. I really do love him more than cookies.

There's a fine art to baking the perfect batch of cookies. The uninitiated might think it has something to do with having the right recipe, but that's really only about 25% of the magic (for the record: Tollhouse. Or the Alton Brown recipe for chewy cookies, the one with lots of brown sugar. But I digress.).

See, if you want to sink your teeth into the perfect chewy cookie, you have to commit to the process. It's not just about letting your butter and eggs get to room temperature before starting your mix. It's not just about getting real vanilla extract and not just the imitation stuff. It's about the REAL details -- like using parchment paper on your baking sheet so that none of your perfect gems stick to the pan. It's about knowing that your first batch will take longer to cook than the range of time on the recipe, and that you have to hover by the oven door to watch them, like an overprotective stage mother watches her kids in tutus as they pirouette. It's about getting the fact that your cookies should come out of the oven not DONE, but ALMOST done -- they'll keep cooking on the pan for a bit. It's about being willing to stand and watch over that pan in the oven for just the right second to take them out, and then waiting three to four minutes (but no longer) before you slide a very thin spatula underneath them to get them onto a waiting cooling rack. And finally, it's about knowing that as much work as you put into them, there's only so many cookies you can (or should, really) eat -- so when the chips are down (ha), you've put in all that work for someone else's enjoyment.

Baking cookies is a lot like motherhood, I'm learning. When I think of the things I've sacrificed for boy (like reliably taking a daily shower, going out after dark, running errands on the spur of the moment instead of fitting them in around naps and meals, not to mention the quality of my sleep, the QUANTITY of my sleep, and the abysmal state of my body, post-pregnancy and mid-breastfeeding), the list makes me wonder why there aren't MORE families with only one child. Looked at objectively, it doesn't seem like the kind of experience anyone should be willing to repeat. 

Luckily for all of us, though (and here's where the cookie analogy breaks down), there's so much more to the equation than just what you give up. Tonight as I rocked my boy to sleep, I buried my nose in his fuzzy, just-shampooed-and-towel-dried hair, and breathed him in. And though you might not have known it to see me do it, gently and peacefully so that his sleep wasn't disturbed, I do it with a desperation I can only barely contain. The ferocity of my love for him sometimes shakes me to the core with its strength and power, and it's saved from being bestial only because I pray fervently while I love him fiercely. 

I can type those words, and others like them, and while they ring true to me, I know there are some of you reading this who may just shake your heads in confusion. I don't blame you. The words, put together, don't really make sense. I don't know how to tell you that the act of breathing in the baby-fresh scent of my son's hair is the purest form of prayer I know. I don't know how to explain that just feeling the perfect, unblemished joy of his smooth skin contains within it entire volumes of prayerful pleading and gratitude. Loving him has, ultimately, brought me closer to God, because He has entrusted me with a gift I can hardly understand -- the right to love and protect and guide my boy.

(On a completely unrelated note, I found out today that my son doesn't like warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. In fact, he doesn't really like cookies or desserts of any kind. I'll pause while the enormity of that statement sinks in for you.  ...  I KNOW. If I hadn't been there when he was born, I might have had to wonder if he was really, indeed, mine.)

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