Letting Go as Our Kids Grow

 

Twenty four hours after pushing and groaning my way through her birth, I clicked the silver snaps on the bottom of my daughter’s onesie and wrapped her in a cotton blanket blooming with rosebuds the color of her fingertips. I slipped a matching cap over the dark peach fuzz of her head, and I cooed over her as we waited for her daddy to arrive and drive us home.

The two of us fumbled with the straps on the car seat, and I slid, tender and raw into the seat beside our baby. Side by side, apprehensive, in love, driving into the unknown.

I clutched the new car seat as my husband sped home. I had no idea then that motherhood is learning how to let go–from the first day to forever.

As I stepped across the threshold of our little brick house on Sunny Hill Lane, I held my baby wrapped in rosebuds, and I waited for someone to stop me. Someone older and wiser would surely step in and save this child from the imposter posing as her mother.

I had never felt so disoriented or disconnected from my own life with its new responsibilities, its new role, its new body. Overnight, I became someone’s mother.¬†With two steps and the creak of a screen door, we entered our home as a family.

I had no idea what I was doing. Eighteen years later, I still don’t. Give me a toddler, an elementary aged kid, a middle grader, and I can advise you on the joys and pitfalls of each stage. Give me my own child, now posing as an adult and living in another state, and I am once again an imposter. I slip through the screen door and feel my way around the new shape of our family.

My rosebud baby is in full bloom–a garden of soft-petaled roses. I watch her unfold from a distance. At the sight of the small, empty well on the right side of her bed, I pick my way through thorns and velvet. There is a daughter-shaped space in every room. Her laughter lingers like smoke in quiet corners.

I miss her.

I realize now, she’s been preparing me for this from the first car ride home from the hospital. From the first time she ran in the opposite direction when I called her name, the first time she slept at a friend’s house, the first time she drove away with a driver’s license burning like fire in her pocket.

Until she’s a mother herself, she won’t realize the exquisite joy/pain I feel every time I pass by a mirror and see the shape of her eyes looking back at me. She doesn’t know that while I practiced letting go, I never stopped carrying her inside of me.

Transitioning Well with the Change of Seasons

I woke with a start at 4am this morning. The coming week is pregnant with change, and by four in the morning, my overloaded brain, heavy with the weight of all the unknowns, could no longer rest. It spun and twisted around each anxiety that I haven’t given myself the space to process.

It reminded me of the final days of my long ago pregnancies, when my body couldn’t rest for all of the life humming beneath the surface of my skin. In the quiet hours, I traced the shape of elbows and feet sliding under the surface of my belly, as my baby rolled and kicked in anticipation. Soon, the womb would give way to the wide-open world. Soon, lungs would expand with oxygen and limbs would feel the brush of air. Soon, freedom, space, room to breathe.

Within the next week, my oldest daughter will leave for college, I will begin a new job, and my youngest will begin a new school. The days are ripe, heavy with the impending change, and I have filled them with lists upon lists of things that must get done. As I’ve run from one task to another, I feel the tug of my soul, pulling against the weight of my to-do lists. I worry that I’m not ready in the ways I should be. I feel unprepared and unfinished.

My schedule is slowly sorting itself out, but my soul is just beginning to whisper hints of what it needs to survive in this new space. I asked a friend how she transitions well as she gives birth to a new season, and tears welled up in my eyes at her reply. She said “by stopping”.

How simple and yet, how impossible this sounds. How does the soul stop when the schedule requires us to keep moving? My friend suggests we give ourselves the gift of time. Time for thought, reflection, and acknowledgement. Time to ask ourselves all the questions that bubble to the surface.

At four a.m., time is what my wide-awake soul craves.

Somehow, I expected myself to enter this new season fully ready. But, as every mother knows, all you really need to grow a life is time led by the hand of love. So, I’ll give myself space to trace the lines of impending change as it moves beneath my skin. I will ask myself all the questions that accompany it. And I will trust that breathing space will arrive, as it always does, when giving birth.

Saying Goodbye to the Familiar to Make Way for the New

My husband sat in the driver’s seat and popped his head out of the window, saying, “Say goodbye, this might be the last time you see your car!” I touched the side of the sliding door and said, “Goodbye, faithful friend.” I tried to summon tears, but really, that’s a bit dramatic, even for me, and he drove away. He was right, he came home from the dealership without the mini-van, without the car stuffed full of a decade of goldfish crumbs and half-eaten lollipops. He came home without the car that carried my three walking hearts for the last ten years, the one that drove us endless miles across America–captured every argument, every sweaty post-game crowd of kids, every morning goodbye in the drop-off line.

My son recently told me when he thinks of his childhood, it’s colored with memories of Splash Mountain, Cracker Barrel breakfasts, and the smell of despair (his own) from too many hours spent shopping at the mall. When I think of my kids’ childhoods, I think of the silver mini-van. It sat at the heart of everything. I was a mini-van mom, a role I rejected and complained about initially, but one I grew into over time. I grew with each deep conversation, each carpool kid, and each trip to a new, unexplored location.

There is nothing like the ministry of a mini-van to our kids and to our community. It is a microcosm of life on wheels.

We have entered a new season, with two teens and a tween. One kid is months away from driving. The five of us are rarely together in one place, but I still spend most of my time on the road, shuttling each one to their own activities. The mini-van served us well, but we have put that season behind us, before I feel ready. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’re in a new season before you’re knee-deep in the muck and mud of it. We have entered a new season of parenting, with our oldest only one year away from flying from our nest.

It is strange to think I’m no longer the mom wrangling three littles, or shuttling kids to elementary school. I’m no longer the mom who cuts out paper hearts or buys teacher’s gifts or takes photographs at the Daddy/Daughter dance. I’m the mom who cheers from the sidelines of their lives, while they run and run and run towards their future.

This is the goal, isn’t it? To work oneself out of a job. To move from season to season and let ourselves and our children expand into them, and grow with them, rather than fight the change.

The mini-van is an impermanent thing which gave us permanent memories. The lacrosse sticks, school books, and dirty clothes strewn around my house will not litter the floor forever. But the memories are the scent that rises, the one that brings us back to times of love and frustration and growth, this sweet smell is a fragrance we never forget. It smells like sacrifice and permanence and chocolate cake.

….

I found this post tucked away in last summer’s archives, and I thought it could use a re-visit. Once again, big changes for our family lie on the other side of August, and my role will change with our new season of family life. We will say goodbye to good things to make way for those things that are better.

Are you facing big changes in your life this fall? How will you grow with them, rather than put up a fight?

SaveSave

When You Feel Ill-Equipped to Lead Others into a Deeper Faith

The year I turned 24, I spent an unreasonable amount of time debating what color my hair should be. I indulged a mild obsession with the TV show Friends and regularly debated the merits of a Ross-and-Rachel combination. I quit my nursing job with good friends, sweet patients, and flexible hours to accept a temporary desk job, hoping to make more money in a less physically demanding environment. In September of that same year, after a summer of swollen feet and watching sitcom re-runs from a side-lying position, I gave birth to my first baby…

To read more on how we grow into our roles as parents and spiritual guides to our children, join me at In Touch Magazine.

SaveSave

On Motherhood and Living in the Present

As I shuffled through seventeen years of memories captured on film, her doe eyes followed me from photograph to photograph. So did her smile–gap-toothed, then crooked, braced, and at last, perfectly straight. I discovered her all over again–at two years old, at ten, at sixteen. A highlight reel of both the extraordinary and the everyday scrolled across my computer screen. Her life unfolded over four continents of landmarks, oceans, and mountains in far flung places.

I watched, mesmerized, as she opened her arms to the waiting world.

As seventeen years scrolled by me in a blink, I re-discovered my daughter, but to my surprise, I also re-discovered myself. Years of photographs found me either front and center with an arm slung around her shoulder or hovering close in the background–a flash of tanned leg, a turned back, extended arms carrying flaming candles on chocolate cake. Other times, I stood behind the camera, narrating the story of my daughter’s life as it blossomed in slow motion right before my eyes.

Bloom. Click. Blink.

I’ve carried a secret fear for years–the fear that the complexity of my inner life eclipses the day to day living of my outer life. I ¬†spend too much time in my head, in a book, in emotions and words stored up for no one but me. I often wonder if I become so wrapped up in my own inner stories, that I forget to live the one unfolding in front of me.

I worry that I missed it all, that the doe eyes and ready smile and open arms are a product of my imagination, rather than permanent tattoos inked onto the skin of my day to day.

The photos reminded me of the truth; I co-wrote the narrative of her life. I didn’t miss a thing. Every first, every last, every familiar gesture, every friend, every party, every rolled eye, and crooked grin. I flutter in and around all of them, sometimes front and center, sometimes just outside the frame, sometimes behind the lens as a witness to her story unfolding.

I couldn’t erase the smile from my face as I read her story in photographs. This second reading of her life confirmed my fears are unfounded. I was present, and I remember each of those moments with clarity.

I remember now too, how those photos only tell part of the story. They don’t tell of the private moments when I sang her to sleep or read her books at bedtime. They show nothing of the prayers whispered, the hopes met or deferred, the dreams dreamed, the tears cried, or the sleepless nights that make a surprise return when teenagers begin dating and driving.

The photos tell a story, but the heartbeat behind all that living? It’s pure poetry.

SaveSave