As I wandered the aisles of Target a few days back looking for Matthew’s birthday present, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I hardly go there anymore, but when they were little, it was an outing that passed the time and brought in the necessities. As my eyes scanned the aisles, I saw all of the phases I’ve been through as a mom…from formula and diapers, to high chairs, strollers and Thomas the Tank Engines, their little faces sitting in the cart, or Lauren’s who would always hold my hand and walk from before she was two. It’s a time so close to my heart it brings tears to my eyes but as I blink them back it feels like a different life.
This week my house became an all teenage zone. It’s hard to believe that it was thirteen years ago yesterday I came home from the hospital with Matthew to a home that I loved and three other little ones. Kate was still one, Luke was four, and Lauren was six and in afternoon kindergarten. Every time we brought a new baby home, I called it going into the tunnel. I knew I was going to be endlessly tired with a foggy brain and hormones that did not settle back into place without a fight. The hours in those days were long and there wasn’t a lot of time for reflection, it was physical work that left me tired enough to drift off to sleep sitting up in a chair. They say the pain of childbirth has a magical way of disappearing from our memory, and I agree, but after almost 20 years of parenting, the tiredness and anxiety of those early days has also faded into blissful memories. Some of them are captured on video and nothing makes us laugh harder than some Matthew footage at three or Luke talking in the kitchen when his voice was hard to distinguish from Lauren and Kate’s…that certainly isn’t the case today.
Being a mom requires bravery, usually we know the right answer, we just have to have the courage to act. The job asks us to make decisions from love and not fear, which, especially as they get older, is hard to decipher. Sometimes those decisions make us less popular today, but I trust that we will be friends when they are 40. Letting them have their freedom is part of the journey to self awareness, but how fast we let it out has such huge implications for the safety of their heart, mind, and physical body. We have to find it within us to give them that freedom to explore who they are apart from us, while providing the guidance that they are blessed to have. Without faith it would all be impossible.
I texted Matthew at the end of the day on his birthday,
“thank you for being born.”
He wasn’t with me, and although I have weathered the 50/50 storm pretty well, birthdays are always tough. He has taught me so much about staying the course, consistency is key for all of us, but his development has illustrated this rule of life for me in the most hands on kind of way. Thankfully, I know he’s safe and warm and with people who love him. In the end, all I want for my kids is for them to keep breathing, in and out, and for them to know they are loved. I let go of what I can’t control and it’s good for all of us.
In some ways, this process has made me better at letting go as they grow, whether they are with me or not. As they grow older, who they become is less and less a part of me, I am the launchpad, but each day the journey becomes more up to them and what they decide to put into it. It they can gather strength from the safety and love I provide them, they will be able to take the risks required to live their version of the fullest life. I show them how to do hard things, not because I ever want to see them suffer, but because it’s what life asks of us if we want to grow into our own greatness. If we don’t work on the realization of that greatness, our soul gets torn, just a bit at a time. It’s so small at first we don’t even notice it because our ego swoops in and puts a little patch on it. It means well, it’s just doing it’s job, but its patches aren’t bullet proof. They leave us weakened and not quite up to that greatness that is calling. Those patches aren’t strong enough to keep out self doubt or give us the strength to make that choice to leap into the next phase of life that is calling. Over time, a lot of life’s damage that ultimately needs to be repaired gets done this way, but we are always strong enough to sort it out if we are honest with ourselves.
As I finish this blog, I’ve had calls from two of my kids as they are out walking. The back and forth conversation with older kids is the best thing about this stage. Nothing makes me happier. Happy Mother’s Day. There are so many ways to fill the role. What’s best is when we can form bonds with freedom and as our truest self. Like a close friend’s birthday, I am always up for a reason to celebrate. So today, I will celebrate with you if you have little ones and you get a much needed nap. I’ll cry with you if you are missing your mom today. We grieve the loss of the loves that make the greatest imprint on our lives. Most of all my kiddos, thank you for being born and making this life the amazing place that it is. You are all exactly who you are supposed to me, I’m here to challenge you to make the most of what has always been yours, but trust that I always have your back.