It isn’t from lack of sleep, or the one million loads of laundry I just completed. It is from love. The love I dispense on a daily basis is beautiful and exhausting.
Each day as I sit to write, my heart tells me who to encourage. I have some unusual categories in my life, which can help me relate to others. I am a single parent. I homeschool my two youngest while managing a career. I have adult children and a grandchild. At home I have three teenagers and a nine-year-old. I am not bragging, but making a point. I know there are millions of other moms/dads out there who fall under one of those categories or more. For myself, I need encouragement in each area daily. Some days one category stands out. Today it is teenagers. They scare me.
I always joke that I may not have had so many children had I known the worries get so very intense as they get older! When you only have little ones, you worry they will fall when they are running, choke on a new food they are trying, or not make any friends in kindergarten. Then they hit 16 and you have to start giving them the car keys, and suddenly you remember how to pray. Rather than teaching them how to eat properly, you teach them not to use drugs or drink alcohol, and worry sick every Friday night as you wait for them to get home. They’ll never understand the wave of relief that falls over you when you hear the garage door open at midnight. And those friends they did indeed make in kindergarten? Now you watch them closer to make sure they are all making wise decisions and staying out of danger. It is a constant battle of wanting these years to last, yet wanting them to hurry up and pass so you can stop worrying. Sure – the worrying never stops, but it gets better. I have raised six children and now have a very wide age range. The teenage years are by far the toughest.
My kids are great. Of course! They are perfect, right? In my eyes they are. I wouldn’t trade those moody, sleepy, sometimes selfish, always hungry, glued to their phones, still let me hug them, and still say “I love you, mom,” creatures for anything.
Being an empathetic person has helped me in parenting. When my teenage son is exasperated because he can’t see his girlfriend on a school night, I put myself in his shoes. That stuff was hard when we were young! Being in love at 16 isn’t beautiful. It’s awful and painful! We’d talk on the phone as long as we could before we got caught at 1:00 in the morning. Kids today don’t know that pain. We actually had to sneak the shared, family phone. At least kids of the 80s eventually had cordless! And the times I snuck out at night….if my mother reads this I am sure to not get a Christmas gift this year. To my adult children…if you ever snuck out, I don’t want to know.
I began writing this little post a couple nights ago. I couldn’t sleep because I was truly concerned for my 16-year-old son. He said some things about how he was feeling emotionally, and it scared me. He is the child most like myself when I was that age. Yes, it is payback when you know exactly what they may attempt because you remember exactly what you would have done at the same age. As a mother, I think about how they are acting, what they are saying and feeling, and try to contain or prevent catastrophe before it happens. I seldom brush anything off. I am dealing with the greatest gifts God has given me. They mean everything to me, and I take nothing lightly.
I talked with my son that night about some things I saw going on with him. I wasn’t sure if I got through. After all, he is a teenager, and we assume they are caught up in their own teenage world. After laying in bed that night, unable to sleep due to concern for my son, he knocked on my bedroom door early in the morning, then came in to talk. He sounded like a grown man as he told me it was time for him to pull it together and do what needs to be done. How hard it must be to be barely 16 and at the same time becoming a man. It’s an awful lot of pressure. I expect him to act like a man, yet he has all of these rules as my child. As I rubbed my eyes and listened to this precious child whose feet I used to love to hear pitter-patter down the hall, knowing he was running to my room at night to sleep with me, my heart ached. How I desperately want to fix everything for him and protect him from every pain this rough world has in store for a boy becoming a man. Unfortunately, that will not help him and I cannot.
I could protect them all from some pain when they were younger. There were rules to keep them under my wing and not too far from the nest. I knew which trees were safe for climbing and how far down the driveway they could ride their bikes. If a knee was scraped, I grabbed a band-aid even though it often wasn’t necessary, and gave the wound a kiss. That was it. All better. By age 16, I can no longer heal their wounds, physically or emotionally, with a bandage and a kiss. I can only guide them and be here through it all.
Our children will most likely never know the tears we cried behind closed doors, or the prayers we begged for in the middle of the night. Until they have children of their own, they won’t understand that our hearts break when theirs break, maybe even harder than their own.
Motherhood is a powerful force. There is truth in the phrase, The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Let us be aware mothers, of what we are shaping and how limited our time is. Kiss the wounds, large and small. Have the talks, from “Can we get a puppy?” to “Mom, I’m in love.” Just keep at it. It is so worth it. I don’t have all the answers, but I know I will never regret one minute of bandaging wounds, the pitter-patter of feet running down the hall, the millions of kisses I have placed on their cheeks, and the many, many times I have said, “Come here and sit down. Let’s talk.”