The Universal Language

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset
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We were eight miles into our epic Disneyland/Disney California Adventures day. My two boys, five and four, had been troopers but as we walked across the bridge to the pier for the Toy Story ride, my youngest asked to be picked up. The rhythmic motions of my walking, that gentle bouncing up and down, proved to be too much for Henry and he fell asleep with his chin on my shoulder just as we were approaching the line.

I remember well when babies sleeping on me was a daily occurrence, when they were so little they just naturally curved into the shape of my body. It had been so long since I’d gotten to hold one of my sleeping children, that when my husband Max offered to carry him for me, I declined. The sign said that there would be a twenty-five minute wait for this ride, and I was determined to spend it snuggling my four year old baby.

We gave our oldest a snack and inched our way forward, past the talking Mr. Potato Head, past the posters of iconic Toy Story scenes. Henry was getting heavier and heavier the deeper he slept. In turning my head to check on him, I noticed an Asian couple in line behind us, their school aged daughter in tow. They spoke a different language, but caught my eye and smiled softly, turning their gaze on my sleeping child.

We were halfway to the front of the line now, my whole body curving to accommodate Henry’s weight. My husband offered again to carry him, but I couldn’t bear to hand him over. I kept stealing glances at his sleeping face on my shoulder, his cheeks carrying just a hint of the baby fat that used to be such a defining feature. And always, the Asian couple behind us, looking nostalgically at Henry. The mom smiled at me with a twinkle in her eye.

Finally, my spine aching, I nudged Max with my elbow and transferred our sleeping child to him. In doing so, I glanced at the couple behind us, who were both nodding and smiling enthusiastically, the mom pointing to her hip in sympathy. We may not have spoken the same language, but parenthood has a way of uniting us all, translating our common joys and struggles into the universal language of love.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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