Hands are to hold

Published on Monday October 10th, 2011

So wrote Ruth Krauss in her delightful book of definitions, A Hole Is to Dig, which you should read whether you are a child or live with one or not.

My hands are writing a grant and publishing a curricular journal. They are knitting gifts for friends who read here. They are performing liposuction and a double amputation/reconstruction on a sweater, which I really feel ought to qualify me for some kind of knitting doctorate if the patient lives.

But for most of most days, they are the only pair of hands that will do for holding all 48 crayons until they can be carefully replaced in the box (some of them upside down); the best pair to hold for companionship or to steady against when eagerness outpaces feet; the pair that can do “Itsy Bitsy Spider” again; the pair that can slice cheddar (“tseeeeeese!”) into manageable pieces; the pair that can lift and stroke and comfort after a tumble.

I’m going to be out of a job before I know it. My girl can already fetch her own boots when she wants to go outside; climb the steps of the tallest slide at the park (with Mama’s hands at the ready just behind, of course); put Papa’s socks back in the drawer upon request (Papa himself could learn a thing or two!); carry a dirty bowl to the dishwasher; pat the animals gently; play the “niano;” and pour bath water into a funnel to turn a paddle wheel. One short year ago we were here:

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This photo is blurry because she detested tummy time. (In fact, it may be the only one I ever took… it seemed heartless to point a camera at one’s offspring sobbing into the rug because she couldn’t lift her gigantic noggin.) This is better:

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Not to be too nostalgic for this sleepy wee person who exists only in memory; I’m really quite thrilled to see her growing and learning and experimenting. I love discovering who she is a little more each day, and likewise sharing with her more of who I am. (We dropped the car off at the mechanic this morning and walked home in the rain, Ada in the front carrier and the two of us wrapped in Mr. G’s big red raincoat. It was a slow walk because Ada wanted to touch the dripping leaves of every shrub and overhanging tree while I told her the species. I figure if a child can discriminate between polygons by the time she goes to kindergarten, she ought also to be able to tell a maple from a birch and a redwood from a cedar.)

But I did suffer a pang for the fleetingness of babyhood when she fell asleep in my arms this evening, which she so rarely does anymore. I have to remind myself, as I read Barnyard Dance for what feels like the forty-seventh time since lunch, that this is the most important work I can do. That “hands are to hold” is perhaps more obvious than that “rugs are so dogs have napkins,” but no less true and sometimes, when patience is fraying, not much easier to remember. I am keeping my hands ready for holding as often as I can.

8 Comments to “Hands are to hold”

  1. bells Comment Says:

    this is beautiful. It is important work and you sound like you’re loving it.

  2. kathy nystrom Comment Says:

    Beautifully put, Sarah! You are an awesome mother!

  3. Natalie B Comment Says:

    lovely 🙂 I have an 8 week old who also detests tummy time, I keep telling him if it were up to me we wouldn’t be doing it!

  4. Seanna Lea Comment Says:

    That is super sweet. I love seeing your relationship with Ada develop in these little vignettes that you share.

  5. Sandy Comment Says:

    Well said. And well done!

  6. April Comment Says:

    In my five minutes of “mama time” today this was the best thing I could have read on my google reader. Thanks so much for the gentle reminder that despite long days the days go quickly and that even though there are those mornings that I wish I could walk out the door with papa to go to work I really am doing the important “work” at home. My little one turned 4 months yesterday and to celebrate had the realization that she can put an end to tummy time but simply popping those hips and flipping on to her back. 🙂

  7. christina Comment Says:

    I’m right there with you. I look at Elsa and see her newborn baby face hiding behind her one-year-old grin, and feel so nostalgic. She also hated tummy time. She also loves Barnyard Dance. Come for a playdate next time you are in Montana!

  8. NastyGirl Comment Says:

    ah… enjoy those years… they fly away so fast…