The Squishy Stage
A Little Bit Less My wife and I have done our fair share of child raising. We currently own the rights to 4 boys that were created by us and, by extension, are now being raised by us. So what I'm about to say next might (to the un-parental ears, especially) sound a bit harsh, but I'm declaring that I've earned enough cred to say it anyways.
Our youngest son, Huck, is at that age (or, more accurately, "developmental stage") where we like him again.
You see, generally speaking (and every parent is different, for sure), newborns pop out and are so adorable, smell so good, and the miracle of life is still so fresh in the air, that you can't help BUT like the little wrinkle ball. However, as they grow bigger, and your sleeping chart grows smaller, you slowly start to like them a little. bit. less.
It isn't only the sleep deprivation, however.
It's how they consume all of what used to be called "your life." All the things you normally did, at a normal pace, have been forever altered or eliminated entirely.
And, mind you, I'm just the Daddy speaking. All of this gets amplified in our situation when you're the Mommy, and you're breastfeeding. Seriously.
Nonetheless what ends up happening is, even though you absolutely adore and love your little tiny human, you find yourself just not liking them as much.
They hit the SQUISHY STAGE.
The Squishy Stage
It may go by a different name in your household, but for us we call it The Squishy Stage. And this is the stage where you find yourself, almost on a daily basis, wanting to just reach down and snatch your little bundle of cuddleliciousness and squish the beejeezus out of them.
And you find yourself liking your child again, thanks to their newfound squishiness.
They are cute. And cuddly.
When Jae (our 3rd son) reached this stage, he just adopted it as one of his many names. We would routinely call him Squish, Squishy, or, my personal favorite, Squish Bucket.
The most magical part of the Squishy Stage is their cheeks. Their cheeks just radiate with squeezable sweetness.
You hold them and you squish them. You kiss them and you smush your nose in to them.
The Down Side
However there's something surprisingly frustrating with the Squishy Stage.
It's kind of like how you can see a photograph, or a painting, of a gorgeous landscape. Truly breathtaking in its ability to capture the beauty found in nature. And yet, even after staring at it and appreciating it as much as you can, you ultimately find yourself just not quite satisfied. And you think, "if only I could see the REAL thing."
Or, it's kind of like when you have a cold, and it's one of those colds that completely knocks out your sniffer. And you can't taste ANYthing. But you sit down to this amazing meal and stick a fork full of what you KNOW is really, really good food… but you just can't taste it. It's just not satisfying.
During the Squishy Stage, when you're pressing your cheek firmly against the radiating squeeziness of your child's cheek, there is this sense that you just
It's as though that chamber in your heart, reserved for the exponentially expanding quantity of love required to raise littles, is bursting at the seams, but your smashing proximity to your littles' cheeks just still isn't enough.
I wonder if that's why, according to the late Maurice Sendak, the Wild Things said to Max, "we'll eat you up, we love you so!"
Because when you just can't get close enough cheek-to-cheek the only other option appears to be to consume them entirely. That's the only way to get closer.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
This sense that there are moments with a loved one where you just can't get close enough to truly satisfy the demands of your love-exploding heart?
That's what the Squishy Stage does to me.
This past Sunday at church we sang "Closer" by Steffany Frizzell. And for me this song gives a voice to that ache in our soul when we just can't get close enough.
Your love has ravished my heart And taken me over, taken me over
And all I want is to be With you forever, with you forever
So pull me a little closer Take me a little deeper I want to know your heart I want to know your heart
'Cause your love is so much sweeter Than anything I've tasted I want to know your heart I want to know your heart
Honestly, I don't really know what "closeness" to God looks like. Or, for that matter, feels like.
Sometimes I think I "feel" close. Other times it feels like there is great distance between me and the Divine.
And some days (I've had a lot of them lately) I feel like I want... no, I NEED, God to pull me a little closer.
I want to find some sort of connection with my God that satisfies. That is enough. That is good.
I want to know God's heart, and to feel known by God.
My hunch is this: as much as right now Huck is in the Squishy Stage, and I just can't seem to get close enough to him, I get the feeling that this is how God ALWAYS feels towards me. That God's heart is always expanding and exploding with a love that constantly wants to pick me up and squeeze me, hold me, squish me.
I may be wrong. But I think I'm right on this.
So if you have a little one, or a loved one, and today you give them a squeeze and think to yourself, "I'd eat them up, I love them so," then just remember: that's how God feels about you.
You are loved.