Parental Paradox

The day I left the hospital with a tiny human tucked into his (and eventually her) car seat, I looked around furtively waiting for someone to say, “Ma’am, you can’t keep him cause you have no idea what you are doing.” Why and how I could suddenly be entrusted with the LIFE of another human being?

Being the avid reader, I, of course, took to the library, finding any and all books on the how-to’s of caring for an infant, taming a toddler, and raising a healthy child. No matter how much I read or how many months passed in those first few years, I felt ill-equipped, spending many days drowning in Mommy guilt. Honestly, it was the one job at which I never felt fully successful. At least I had a plethora of books I could consult to at least find a possible solution to any child-rearing problem.

Fast-forward to the late teenage years, you know the ones ,where the very-opinionated small semi-adult has strong ideas and feelings on how life should go and how Mom does, or doesn’t, fit in that space. With every decision, that same feeling of inadequacy rears its head again. I stand in a place where I have hardly any answers to some really tough questions, and there are no books to consult, as few authors have felt the confidence to tackle this most difficult dance of parenthood: the letting go and holding on.

Poems and thoughtful, nostalgic essays have been written on the topic, but no direct advice given. This motherhood stage is jam-packed with ALL THE FEELS. Just in the past week while celebrating the high school graduation of my youngest (which means empty nest looms), I’ve gone from excited to melancholy, giddy to tearful, confident to panicked. I am ALL OVER THE MAP! Just call me the emotional version of Carmen Sandiego.

When my oldest started his senior year just a few years back, I suddenly wished I was an octopus. I could then have eight arms to grab and hold time, people, and events for just a second longer. All around me, days moved at warped speed and nobody seemed to notice but me, the mom. It’s not that I wanted time to stand still so things couldn’t change; I just wanted to savor moments a little longer, to weigh them down in my memory.

For so many years we grip tightly to our child’s hand, even when he or she pulls against our hold, and then one day, which always comes too soon, we must loosen our fingers and let her hand slide from ours. While she turns and runs into their future, our hand stays forever open for those times when she’ll look back and need to grab hold again just to know we are still there.

In her book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memior, Katrina Dennison says, “letting go is also a way of saying, ‘I love you.'” The precious days when we all shared the same roof, the same dinner table, and the same world are suddenly gone. We can’t stall the days nor can we force our children to stay. So we loosen our grip and tighten our hold on the memories. It is in the letting go we declare our love because even in our own painful loss of so many things, we want our children to live a happy lives of their own.

The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s selfishness. And if there was one thing I learned early on in motherhood is that it is the most selfless thing I have ever done. Therefore, it’s only fitting that as face the ending of this season of motherhood, I’m  required to make yet another selfless choice and let go of so, so much as another birdie takes flight into a life of her own. When I let her spread her wings and fly, she will hear me whisper once again, “I love you.”


Be Anxious for Nothing

Before I had kids, a wise woman made a statement I have never forgotten: “The theory of a baby and the reality of one are two very different things.” As a young woman with hopes of raising a family, I grasped her meaning only slightly. Once that first baby scream hit the airwaves in the delivery room, my understanding grew immediately.

There is no way to prepare for motherhood. Worse, no one tells you that the rules change every three to five years as the littles grow into bundles of miniature energy balls, ultimately developing into bigger humans with their own thoughts and ideas — lots of them that they don’t mind expressing.

In all these stages, a mother prays, sometimes for patience, others for wisdom, some days  simple survival. As our kids grow older and we learn to navigate the hurricane level storm waves that teenage-hood and young adult land bring along, our prayers can get desperate, pleading, and fearful. On those days, my wise female friend’s words ring back in my ear with a slight alteration: “The theory of raising teenagers and the reality are two very different things.”

Before we have kids or teenagers, we brimmed with ideas on how it would go, what we would do in each situation, or how our kids would act, do, say, and be. Let’s pause and moment and laugh. If there is one thing we know now, very little of that ends up being true.  The truth is the only thing most of us know in these situations is that prayer is our greatest weapon, and if we want to boost those prayers, we pray scripture over those wild and wooly almost adults.

In these past two years, I’ve learned one thing. I don’t pray out of fear for my children. I will not live in anxiety and worry because I serve a God who loves my kids more than I do and will chase them to the corners of the world should they decide to run there. What a comfort!

At such a crossroads place like almost adult-hood (those years from the last part of high school through college or the working world), I’ve learned that one prayer brings my heart peace. One prayer that covers all those little worries and hopes for the future.

{I} ask God to give you a complete understanding of what He wants to do in your lives and {I} ask Him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better (Colossians 1:9b-10). 

With God chasing them and our prayers for their greater understanding of who He truly is, we can have peace. As we pray this prayer, we can also ask the Lord to reveal those moments to us when he makes himself known to our kids. And my friend, he will. He does! I know this to be true.

So if you are pleading with God over your children in a million different areas, or maybe it’s just one vital area, keep it up. Join me in claiming this verse from Colossians and let’s watch together as the Lord reveals himself in the most delightful, maybe a little painful, but always loving way to our kiddos — I mean, to our almost adults.