Monday, May 9, 2016
Reflections on Motherhood Now
On an otherwise beautiful and enjoyable Mother's Day, we had one 25 minute traumatic experience that summed up this mothering thing pretty well. Brandon got a sliver. And I believe he was more afraid than he was in pain, but we had to get that sliver out, and he was petrified of the process. It was a stubborn sliver. And Brandon sat on my lap for 20 minutes while Daddy picked at that thing and did his best to get it out with as little pain as possible. For that entire time Brandon was crying. His sobs fluctuating between soft cries and whimpers and full on screaming as though in torture. And when he was really scared, he would squeeze my hand tight and bury his tear-streaked cheeks into my chest, his hair matted down with sweat. And it was just a sliver, but my stomach started hurting for him and my own eyes got watery and I sang "Jesus Loves Me" while he cried and Daddy did his best. And when it was finally over and the sliver was out and we were running his hand under cold water, I told him how brave he was. That even though he cried through it, he trusted us to do what was best for him instead of running away from it. That he faced the pain and the fear instead of trying to escape it. He hurt and so I hurt and what was just a sliver felt so much bigger. And yet I wished for a lifetime of "just slivers" and nothing worse or bigger or more traumatic for him.
They are getting older and my worries are growing bigger.
I remember my biggest concerns when they were babies. I thought back then that one of the hardest things about being a mom to a baby was not knowing what was bothering them if they were having a fussy or irritable day. Not being able to communicate with them was tough. When they were feverish, I feared pain. When they broke out in rash, I jumped too quickly to do my own research and then would fret over what I'd find on the Internet. When I would travel for work, I was in agony the entire time away from them - fearful that they would completely forget about me while I was gone, or worse, fearful that they would think I was never going to come back to them. Of course most of these concerns were exaggerations on my part, and deep down I knew that, but still the worry and the fear was there.
Yet there are days now when I would do most anything to go back to when it was simpler. Back to when they needed only me, a clean diaper, a warm bottle, my arms cradled beneath their neck and a safe crib to lay down in for sleep. Back to the days when the future still felt so far away. These days, the worry is so much deeper, the consequences so much bigger, the future so much closer. They have more freedom now. They can play at the neighbor's house after school, play outside without my supervision, have conversations with friends without my listening ear, make their own decisions on who to build friendships with at school. They have a say in which activities they sign on for, what clothes to buy at the store, what books to read at night and who to listen to when Mom and Dad aren't around. We face new challenges now. How to discipline older and maturing hearts and minds. When to start having the tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Constant reminders and talks about safety and strangers and how to handle situations that we pray they never come across. It won't be long and there will be cell phones and social media and so many other things. And I can do my best to help them maintain their innocence and to delay them growing up before they need to. To try to go against the norm of the times we live in where it seems that kids are rushed and pushed to be more and do more and know more at a younger age. I can do my best to hold on while also letting them go.
I know I have to let them make mistakes because that's the only way they'll learn consequence, truly. I can do my best to teach Brandon why it's not so safe to climb that fence but also realize that he's a boy and boys climb fences and I won't always be there - in their presence - to tell them no or to redirect them. I can do my best. But they're also going to do their own things and be their own people and make their own choices.
And isn't that what we really want for them? If I'm doing this right, they will WANT to go out and live life. They will WANT to try new things and take risks and put their hearts out there and make friends and go on adventures and be daring. And if I'm doing this right, they'll also know that I will always be their biggest fan and I will always be their biggest supporter and I will always love them. And being their biggest fan might mean that I sometimes cheer quietly and internally from the corner or from far away, and it might sometimes mean that I shout it from the rooftops or the bleachers or the sidelines. But I'm always here. And I will always fear for them and I will always pray for them and I will always find complete happiness in my love for them.
A recent episode of Grey's Anatomy summed it up best. Maggie, the live-in aunt to Meredith's three kids, lets her emotions and love for those three children get the best of her and completely consume her on a day when an eight-year old boy is admitted to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
Maggie: "I don't know how you do it, Mer... Love your kids like this. I really love them. I love them like if something happened to them, I would die. My heart is so wide open and they're so fragile. I don't know how you live like this. I don't."
And Meredith's only response to her? Some days - you just have to get through it.
It's scary, this mothering thing. It's getting scarier. It's also the most rewarding part of my life - and always will be.
Jaden and Brandon, I love you more than words. And it's scary letting go. But it's the biggest joy of my life to watch you fly.