As a mother of five, I’ve often prided myself on having an unofficial medical degree, dentistry license, chauffeur business, counseling degree, and a veterinarian practice. I can also sport a striped referee shirt and whistle with the best of them. I’m not saying that I’ve seen it ALL, but I’ve diagnosed my share of rashes, strep throat, screamed “Interference!!” at my son’s football games years ago, and driven at least a billion miles to practices, dances, friends’ houses, and to the store for projects due the next morning. That is a blog of its own. That’s what we do, we moms. We protect our kids while they are still young. We lay in bed, wide awake, till we hear them come home, usually one minute before curfew, we feed them, we clothe them, and we give them advice. Sometimes it’s unsolicited. But I never really cared. Because I was supposed to be the big person, the one whose life experiences have taught her that if your kids are never a little irritated with you, we probably aren’t doing our job very well. Let’s face it, doing the right thing is hard. Really hard.
And in the blink of an eye, we drop them off at kindergarten, and they start coloring and playing with play-dough without you. It’s a little rude. I mean, we gave them life. We labored for hours to bring them into this world. And we have to act all cool and keep our sobs in until we get in the car. Because we no longer know what they are doing 24/7. And it’s quite unsettling. Are they washing their hands? Are they chewing with their mouths closed? Are they sharing their toys? Are they sharing family secrets with the teacher? All of these things can kill a mom. Then, all of the sudden they start choosing colleges, and you’re buying them cute comforter sets, towels, mini-fridges, shower caddies, and cute lamps. Seriously, weren’t you just playing with an Easy Bake Oven? And our boys, don’t even get me started. They basically pack 50 pounds of snacks and a towel. Like, don’t you need more than this? “No, this is good.” Jesus, take the wheel before I die. And then that dreaded moment when we try to be strong and not gutturally sob in front of their dorm-mates, lest we embarrass them to the point of never speaking to us again. They always have some freshman meeting they need to run off to, leaving us in the parking lot, looking lost and forlorn. It is brutal. Four times I’ve done this. It takes weeks to recover. Don’t even walk past their empty bedroom. Let alone, walk in. Don’t do it. Eighteen years have come and gone like that. And I stand and wonder, “Did I do enough to prepare them for the scary world out there? To make choices that are honorable and Christ-like. To stand for what is holy, and shy away from what is not? To love people like Jesus loves. To be a friend to the least of these? To keep their pride at bay and their humility evident?” I could go on and on here. It’s very simple really. It’s a trust issue. And for the first time, we literally drive away and they begin making choices without consulting you. We’ve no idea when they are coming home at night, let along who they are with. We have zero clue if they’ve eaten a fruit or vegetable for six weeks and we usually only hear from them when they want money. Don’t believe me? Ask your friends. We are human ATM’s.
I’m going to preface this with this disclaimer: I am the mother who would have been totally fine if my children lived in the basement forever, like some commune. We’re tight. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for that. I made so many parenting mistakes, it’s truly a miracle my children are alive to tell you about them. I’ve had to apologize to them for speaking without thinking first. I sat my toddlers in front of cartoons with cut up hot dogs and apple slices and called it lunch. All for 15 minutes of peace. I’ve succumbed to buying candy at the check-out counter just to squelch an ear-piercing screaming fit. Not every time, but I’ve done it. I’ve hung sticker charts to get kids to stay in THEIR OWN BEDS. I’m not above bribing. This is real stuff, moms. I’m not saying I’m proud of every parenting move, but I will say that my kids survived. Not only that, they thrived, despite me. Miracles still happen.
The last of my three daughters got married a few weeks ago. It was perfect and lovely and I had all the feels that day. I’ve done this twice before, but who gets used to seeing your offspring be all grown up and change their name? They stand there in these beautiful dresses, straight out of a Disney movie, and then all of the sudden, they have their own dishes, new towels, crock-pots, and waffle makers. I’m pretty sure she just “played” kitchen with plastic dishes and pretend restaurant customers. Never is there such a hodgepodge of emotions that overtake you when you least expect it. How did this happen??
And then, before I can even begin to make sense of it all, these nuggets of truth wash over me and they are a force not to be reckoned with. Aren’t my children a gift from the very Creator Himself? Do I believe that He truly has their back? As if He didn’t know what kind of adults they’d become? He knows every mistake they will make, every wrong corner they turn, and every selfless act they perform. They are His. Plain and simple. Who am I to “keep them” in my neat little nest, when He may be asking them to soar off into the distance? I can’t out-parent God. He’s the ultimate Father. He gives us these sweet little ones, we do our very best to ground them in His Word, to help them see that life doesn’t revolve around them, we pray for them to keep their eyes on what is good and holy, and then we watch them go. We try not to fret and worry. We try not to step in when we see a mistake about to happen, because those lessons are priceless. And we listen to his command to, “Point your kids in the right direction-when they are old they won’t be lost.” (Proverbs 22:6, The Message, MSG). And to be quite honest, they may wander around lost. For a very long time. Our hearts may break at their choices. But not one minute will go by that we don’t love them with everything we have. We continue to pursue them, whether they want us to or not. We show them what unconditional acceptance and love looks like. We applaud their accomplishments. We tell them when they are walking a path that leads to danger. And because they are adults, we sometimes have to watch them hurt from their choices.
If that doesn’t sound like Jesus watching me flounder around, I don’t know what does. How many times have I wondered a path that was so enticing, but would eventually find me lost? He’s clearly given us what we need to thrive, and sometimes we fall. And we may wander around in the proverbial desert for a long time. But I promise you this, He has never left your side. He has never written you off as useless. He still pursues you, even when we don’t want to be pursued. He’s watched us grow from the very beginning. “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:10, MSG). He has a job for us that He very much uniquely prepared just for me and you. He’s so eager to see us begin the good work that He planned for us. To see us soar. To be the women that stand for what is righteous. To let go when it’s time for our little ones to leave our nest and to trust that He has them under His wings. He has more than enough space there. He’s good like that.
So even though we see these children that are all grown up, crossing the street without you, having babies of their own, and have big-kid jobs, we can lay our heads on our pillows in sweet relief that Jesus loves them way more than we do. And can you even imagine that could ever be true? It is, sweet friend. It is.