Full Hands

When you have two kids 16 months apart in age, you basically wear a sign that dares all mouthy passersby: “Go ahead. Make my day.” The current favorite line among those who take the dare?

“Your hands must be full!”

Well, yes, duh.

I adore Jim Gaffigan for observing: “It’s not like you would point to someone in a wheelchair and say, ‘Looks like you don’t do much dancing!” (Here’s some other comebacks just in case you want them.)

But seriously, do these people think I’d prefer my hands to be empty? Or that stating the obvious is helpful? Full hands aren’t so bad so long as they’re full of good things. Good things like bacon. A college diploma. The winning lottery ticket. Or in this case, babies.

Hearing it often certainly makes me think about my full hands, and you know, I kinda like them. Juggling life with two certainly forces some adjustments to be made. There’s less sleep, less energy, and twice the tiny, emotionally-stunted humans who have no time for my selfish shenanigans. There’s a lot of discipline to get up, get ready for the day and take two under two somewhere that will exhaust them enough to make naptime a breeze. 

It’s a lot, no doubt, but it makes me a better person.

The truth is there were plenty of other things I had in my hands before the existence of my little narcissistic dictators. My hands used to be full of scheduling crises, phone calls, editing deadlines, and managing the endless demands on my boss’ time. Full of beer at happy hour and bags of Loft clothes and an actual fashionable purse. Full of metro rides and peaceful walks and good books.

Now, they’re full of doctor’s appointments, groceries, functional diaper bags, and poopy diapers. Full of laundry and sippy cups and snacks. Full of thrift store finds and toys to put away and bottomless coffee. Full of strollers and playdates and tantrums. Full of sweet hugs and kisses and snuggles.  

My hands were always full, but I think I’ve traded up.

I remember several years back, an Irish priest at my parish in Texas gave a homily on full hands. In Ireland, it is customary to always bring something with you when invited to a dinner party, and not to arrive “with your arms at the one length”, meaning hanging empty at your sides. It would be a bad day for us, he said, to arrive in Heaven with our arms at the one length, to have our hands empty rather than full of good things that we cultivated while on earth.

One day, I’ll have to show God my hands and thanks to Him they aren’t at the one length. The next time someone tells me my hands are full, I’ll just say I’m glad they’re full of good things.

5 Thoughts

  1. Emily, I only met you once. YOU were a very little girl when your family came through St. Louis & stayed with us. Of course, I had known your Mom’s family since she was a little girl since I married into the Phillips family. I fell in love with your sweet gentle mom the first time I saw her! She is truly a Woman of GOD! I have kept up with your family & my daughter was Flower Girl in your mom’s & dad’s wedding. To see the beautiful, CHRISTian people that ALL of you are & the DIFFERENCE you are making in our World is no surprise to me & it makes me so grateful & honored to be able to be continually inspired & nurtured by People of God such as YOU as you fearlessly & Lovingly carry on your Mother’s Legacy of Faith & fulfillment! I thank you, I keep you lifted in Prayer since “YOUR hands are FULL of ALL GOOD THINGS”,I see you as God’s Handiwork…exactly like like my beloved Jeannie. Be Blessed ALWAYS!


    1. Mrs. Carol, believe it or not I remember that trip to St. Louis, and your sweetness and kindness 😉 Thank you for you sweet words!
      Hope you and your husband are doing well!


  2. Hi Emily! It seems like the primary picture I get of motherhood from other moms is how hectic, crazy, and tiring it can be. I’m sure it is, but hearing mainly all about the challenges and little about the joys of having and raising children makes me kind of nervous about what’s coming for me, as I’m pregnant with my first! It was encouraging to read you talk about the joy and significance of parenting, even in the challenges of it. Thank you for your perspective!

    (P.S. I think it messed up when I tried to comment the first time, so sorry if it shows me commenting twice.)


    1. Hey Christine!! I can assure you that motherhood is the greatest joy you’ll ever experience. But joy is paradoxically always interwoven with some kind of suffering. Being a mom is hard, and there’s no way to sugar coat that. BUT there is no greater thing you’ll ever do with your life, nor a greater love you’ll ever experience!
      If you’re nervous, it just means you want to do well, which I can assure you, you will 🙂 Motherhood only has to be accomplished one day at a time, one moment at a time. No more!
      Congratulations on your pregnancy!!! When are you due??


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