A year ago I was a hot mess. I mean, more than my usual hot mess. I was getting ready for my baby boy, my first-born, to graduate from high school. It didn’t even seem possible that this child, who let me practice being a mom on him, was old enough to fly out of our nest. I doubted every parenting decision I had made. I wondered if we taught him all he needed to know to be shrewd and wise, but also be kind and compassionate. I begged God for more time, or at the very least, redeem the time I screwed up parenting my son. I dreaded the day on the calendar when my baby boy walked the stage; and to make it worse, I physically felt ill every time I saw the date on a calendar of when he would
leave me move into his dorm.
Guess what? The dates arrived. I survived. You will too (look at me with my rhyming skilz…this would be the point in our face to face conversation where I would try to make a rap up and do some kind of dance and then there would be awkward silence. It’s okay, I’ve come to accept blank stares as part of my everyday life).
I’ve learned much this past year regarding this aspect of parenting. I’ve learned that the days I dreaded were every bit as painful as I expected, but what surprised me was God’s presence with me in every step of the journey. His comfort and peace were (and are) regular companions. His quiet assurance reminding me that He’s filling in the gaps of my lackluster parenting. Not only is His presence with me, but also with Kaden. I witnessed my son experience God in ways He never did or could under our roof.
I watched a boy become a man. I watched him walk through stress, sickness, heartache, money management (when he actually had funds to manage), conflict, and all the circumstances of our lives that grow our roots deep or break us. I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten in the way of God’s plan to grow Kaden’s roots deeper into Him if Kaden was still living at home.
(Although I would not hate it if Kaden came home to visit more. But, whatever, God’s using him…blah, blah, blah…)
I miss him terribly. I miss the dynamic he brings to our family. I miss him doing impressions of people. I miss his fake laugh. I miss his humor. I miss listening to him counsel his siblings and encourage them in ways parents can’t. I miss hearing the moment to moment events of his life and, now, only hearing the highlight reel.
But, I would miss out on seeing God craft a young man into His image if Kaden were still at home. I don’t want to miss out on that.
Stefan and I joke that our quiver is full…our little quiver of arrows. But, arrows are meant to be shot out (haven’t you seen the hunger games?). What good is an arrow if it’s not used? It will miss the mark SO MANY TIMES, but so do we. God’s grace is sufficient. I can tell you this, it is a privilege to watch God chisel a child into His image. It’s excruciating at times. It’s exhilarating at times. But, it is always a privilege.
I have several friends who are in the throes of the ugly cry. Sistah, I get it. Whether your child is graduating from kindergarten or high school, our hearts hurt. You can ugly cry all you want! It’s painful. It’s difficult. But, let Him surprise you with His presence in the midst of the pain. He hasn’t forgotten you. And, REST ASSURED He won’t forget your child either.
It’s OKAY if you are standing with one foot in grief and one foot in hope as you draw your bow back and shoot out one of your deeply loved arrows. But, let go and watch that arrow fly.
Then, curl up on the couch with copious amounts of swedish fish and milk duds and let our sweet Savior whisper in your ear, “Well done, Mama. Well done.”
The Message (MSG)
3-5 Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
I cannot believe it has been so long since I’ve sat down to write. Goodness. Y’all are gracious. It’s not like I’ve been doing nothing; although, that would be preferred by me. I am really, really good at being lazy. And, sarcastic. And, emotional eating. If I could have majored in sarcasm and food with a minor in procrastination and laziness, I would have graduated summa cum laude. Given that I had to look up how to spell “summa cum laude” is a fairly decent indication that my degree from college was nothing short of a miracle in itself.
I digress. I’ve been doing this little gig called parenting. It keeps me busy. Not to mention it keeps me praying–constantly. I’ve asked and asked for a fill-in or a sub, but it’s down right lunacy that you cannot find substitute parents on craigslist or ebay. I haven’t checked etsy. That might be my best shot. At least my kids would get someone super crafty for my fill-in. I have never had a more complex or difficult job as this parenting thing.
In an effort to keep it real, here’s a snippet of the past few weeks:
1. Eldest son has acute bronchitis (after speculation that it was pneumonia). Have I ever mentioned that he lives SEVEN hours away?
2. Youngest son is failing math. That’s what happens when one scores a 31 on a test. To which he replied, “Well, I’m a little rusty.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. In his defense, he “gets” math. He has delayed fine-motor skills, which makes writing difficult so often he skips all the “circle this, underline that, show your work” parts of the test. Even though his answer is right, he doesn’t follow directions. We’ve had great conversations with his teacher and she’s wonderful!! He’ll get there.
3. Hours and hours of conversation with #3 about when he can get a cell phone, when he can “date,” when can he go bow hunting, how does one forgive the people who did 9/11 and, “have you, mom, forgiven those people?”, and a bazillion “what if” scenarios ranging from “what if someone broke into the house” to “what if I fail the STARR test.” He swims in deep water, people. Deep, deep water.
4. Then, there’s my favorite daughter, Kendall. She is in the throes of junior high (8th grade). And, can I just get a witness up in hur that Jr. High is a version of hell, if not hell itself?! You could not pay me a gazillion dollars to go back there. Even if you promised that I could eat whatever I wanted and never gain weight or date a One-Direction dude and be best friends with Taylor Swift (and she would write a number one song about how awesome I am). Wouldn’t. Do. It.
It’s bad, y’all. I plan on writing about other things than my oldest son moving to college (7 hours away), but his absence is profoundly apparent around this place. It’s not like I’m not used to him being gone…he did spend every other weekend and several weeks in the summer at his dad’s house in Austin for his entire life. This is different. And, it’s making me a little cray. (Do kids these days even still say that?) (See, my model for this kind of information is gone. What if cray means something else…like, thirsty does nowadays.) (What if I’m actually referencing something super shady, like drugs, or gangs, or violence?) My urban dictionary is in a dorm in Fayetteville, and I’m one milk dud away from certifiably cray–if that still means what I think it does.
I’ll spare you every heartbreaking detail of our good-bye. Know that my heart physically ached as Kaden’s truck went straight toward campus, and our truck turned right to get on the interstate. I pretty much held it together until then. Since, I’ve been teetering between the full-fledged ugly cry or a milk dud/swedish fish induced coma. And, because now I’ve had roughly 96 hours to recognize the irrationality of my thoughts on that long ride home, maybe they will provide comfort when you, too, take your kid to college and experience some of the most irrational thinking in all your 18 years of parenting. Know you are not alone.
Irrational Thoughts from the long ride home:
- What if Kaden meets and marries a Duggar girl and has 18 children and I won’t be able to afford to buy my grandkids Christmas gifts, much less, remember all their names?
- What if said Duggar girl thinks her mother-in-law is going to be a sweet, mild mannered, skirt wearing, King James Version reading, soft spoken woman like her own mother?
- What if Kaden isn’t smart enough for college? What if it’s because I quit breast feeding him when he was 10 days old and spoon fed him cereal that very same day?
- Did I have the “5 conversations I must have” with him per Vicki Courtney? What if I only had 4 and the 5th one was the most important?
- Does he know how to read a map?
- If he wanted to eat healthy, have I taught him the difference between a carb and a protein?
- Would it be weird if I asked his roommate to take a “first day of school” pic? The chalkboard sign with “13th Grade” wouldn’t be necessary.
- What if his affection for Arkansas is contagious and my 3 other children want to go 7 hours away for college?
- Did I hug him enough?
- Does he know that I’m his biggest fan and I’m cheering wildly for him?
- And, that my love and grace won’t run out?
- Does he remember how to tie a tie?
- Did I tell him about the “fancy places” and how there is more than one fork to use? Would he know which one to use?
- Will he get lonely?
- Will he know not to eat unhealthy amounts of milk duds, swedish fish, and laffy taffy to drown out the loneliness?
And, that was only the first five minutes of the car ride.
Good-byes are tough. But, like my wise, non-verbose husband often says, “Better a terrible ending, than an endless terrible.” He’s right. I don’t want Kaden living on my couch when he’s 40. But, I sure wouldn’t mind it today. Instead, I’ve got a box of milk duds waiting to cuddle on the couch.
I only have a few minutes to write as we are in the final stages of getting our oldest, Kaden, packed for college. We leave in the morning and my heart is heavy…and ecstatic. For almost my ENTIRE adult life, Kaden has been a part of every decision, every thought, every event. He and I grew up together. That’s what happens when you have a baby while still a baby. In those early stages of infancy–he as a human, me as a mom–I remember telling myself, “if I can just get him to 18; if I can just make it til he graduates; if I can just keep him alive for that long, we will have made it!” (I know, my standards were so high!) But, those early days were some of the hardest, loneliest days of my entire life. And, Kaden was my constant companion. I had NO idea how to parent, much less disciple, but he didn’t care.
And, now, here we are at the symbolic finish line I’ve been working towards for the past 18 years. I’m a little lost. I’ve never been an adult without my constant companion. However, it’s his turn now to be an adult and I find myself wanting to be his constant companion. He doesn’t need me, though…and that, my friends is reason to celebrate.
My hope and prayer as a mom is that I will slowly wean my children off of me–my opinions, thoughts, faith–and that they would take hold of their own Faith. I don’t want them to be like me. I want them to be like Jesus. The only way that happens is to let them go…and allow the Spirit to be their constant companion. How else will they be “Kingdom Bringers?” or “World Changers?”
It sucks, though. It’s hard. It’s brutal at times. But, His love never gives up on us. His grace won’t run out. God’s favorite activity is redemption. My anchor for the next stage of parenting is that Truth. (well, that and a lot of emotional eating and shopping).