Motherhood is a paradox. You give birth to a little being. They are warm and gooey, soft and loud, dependent and demanding. I remember saying to my pediatrician, when I was nursing that I couldn’t get over the feeling that was solely responsible for somebody else’s nutritional needs. She said, “Yes, that’s right. Don’t think too much about it, just move on.” – As if obsessing over the reality of being someone’s life source would make you go crazy.
When they are little, you try to control things like nutrition and sleeping, safety and what they are exposed to on television. You think that if you show them shows like Veggie Tales and Little Einstein that they might somehow love Jesus and become brilliant. You talk yourself into these false narratives, telling yourself that you actually have control over this life that you brought into the world.
When they are little, you can take them to the library and read them books, and to the park and children’s museums. You expose them to things you want them to see, like nature and art, counting thunder claps and catching fireflies.
When they hit junior high, this slow transition begins. It begins with shopping at different stores and the independence of self selection. It begins with friends having a higher priority and a greater awareness of self.
Then things start getting dramatic.
A friend group dissolves, leaving the new feeling of loneliness and loss.
A girl leaves a note on the last day of school calling her an anorexic.
A boy ditches her two days before the 8th grade dance.
The phone begins connected to the hand and the feeling of everyone’s life being better than yours seeps into your brain.
Everyone seems to be an honor student.
They start making decisions that have consequences. That frontal cortex starts igniting. Impulsiveness sets in, sometime leading to “you did what?” moments. They experience shame and embarrassment, forgiveness and grace.
Self esteem starts to take a plunge, and then it gets better, and then it plunges again, and then it gets better. It’s like holding a firefly.
And there is no longer a quick remedy to provide comfort. At first, you can guide. You can even call the other mom. You can call the teacher, without looking like “one of those moms.” You can intercede and help prop up. You can keep giving life support.
Then, they start to stand on the edge and start peering over into adulthood.
The music in your car is nothing short of terrible.
There are cups and spoons left in rooms and clean clothes are thrown in the laundry.
You suddenly become an idiot. It’s a wonder you have made it this far.
And, could you be more annoying?
You think, somehow that it won’t happen to you. That somehow the stories that other moms told you would pass over you. I always hated it when moms of older kids told me that “while I was busy now, just wait… it gets worse.” I now bow to their wisdom.
I remember hearing moms of older daughters tell me that their teenager was so hateful and rude, and I thought, “that won’t happen to me.” I now confess my own arrogance.
I remember hearing older parents say that parenting starts out physically exhausting and ends mentally exhausting. They were so right. It’s this crazy, paradoxical moment where on the one hand you don’t want them to leave and at the same time you are ready for them to go. It’s such a conflicting feeling of holding two truths at the same time.
You will have a moment when all of sudden it dawns on you that you have arrived at a moment that you always thought was a long way off. Suddenly you are there, and they are there, and you think, “What the hell is happening? I seriously just give birth 5 minutes ago.”
But then you go home and look in the mirror and realize, “Nope, something has definitely happened.”
I am so grateful for all of the moms who have taught me how to be a mom.
I remember having a preschooler and going to friend’s daughter’s graduation party. She (the daughter, not the mom) seemed so old to me. My friend told me to just blink and I would be where she was. She was right.
I remember sitting with a mom of a high school student and she was telling me, in front of her daughter, that she knew her daughter would make good decisions. I thought that was so wise.
I am grateful to the mom who told me how she talked about sex to her son and his girl friend.
I am grateful to the mom who told me that in high school she never called a teacher. She let her kids figure it out.
I am very grateful to the mom’s that have curfews and limits on phones and gaming devices. I am grateful to the mom’s that call and make sure parents are home. I am grateful to the mom’s that have boundaries on driving, overnights, and use “find my friends.”
I am mostly grateful to all of the moms you have shared a glass of wine or cup of coffee and have been so honest with what their kids are going through. It’s really hard to admit that your kid isn’t perfect. But parents need each other’s horror stories. We need the confession that our kids are kids.
I am so grateful to the stories that make us laugh and cry at the same moment. I am grateful to the moms who have confessed that they have cussed their kids out and had to apologize later.
I am grateful to the moms who have confessed that they let their kid go do something, because it was easier than fighting.
I am grateful to the moms who have modeled self care in the middle of all of this.
I am grateful to the moms have showed me how to let them go….
It’s a paradox. And it’s hard. Really, really hard. It’s also good. Really, really good.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who find yourself holding the wonder of your own, fragile, strong, beautiful, firefly and stand in amazement of their light. Do not hold them too tightly, or their light will go out. Let them explore your hand and enjoy the air. Eventually, the will come to the edge of your finger tips. Let them stand there, peering over the edge. And then, ever so gently, the Breath of God will let them go…