Turning 20

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He just turned 20.  How do these things happen?  He was 2, I blinked, and now he is 20.  Good grief.

I think I should receive gifts on my kids’ birthdays!  I think you should, too!  Why not, I ask?  We’ve done all the work.  Kids…they just live.  We keep them alive.  We work hard to keep them from bodily harm and get them to adulthood!  There’s teaching and training and sleepless nights.  There is sacrifice and tears.

Think of the embarrassment.  Just when they are supposed to mind their manners they bust out some tightly lipped family secret.  Some folks know just the right questions to ask and these kids fold!

Oh, the rigors of mothering!

We’ve been pooped on and thrown up on.  If you’re like me, you got really good at catching vomit.  Yep, right here in these two hands.  We’ve been stretched—figuratively and literally.  For many of us, our bodies will NEVER be the same.   Let’s not even talk about the checkbook.

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But, oh, the joys of mothering!

The sloppy, jelly kisses.  The tiny hugs as powerful as any bear hug.  The “I love you’s” and “thank you, mommy’s.”  Or maybe the snuggles and warm bodies tucked up next to you during a midnight storm.  Perhaps it’s the saving of the day or heroic chocolate chip cookies after a wrecked bike or hurt heart.  The paper hearts and handmade gifts.  These are the treasures of motherhood.  I have crates full of my children’s childhoods.

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So many snapshots and memories rest in my heart.  My heart is intrinsically intertwined with my children’s hearts.  How can a mother’s heart be anything but?  Our happiness is hopelessly linked with our children’s happiness.  We are only as happy as our saddest child.  We long for their joy and peace in this life.  We see in them what they sometimes can’t see in themselves.  We believe the world is at their hands.

They look to us to guide them and see them through.  They need us to ride the waves with them and stay steady.  Ready to call them down from the edge.  They want us to be there and hear their hearts.  So many late night chats when hearts are open and walls are down.  So much 24 hours a day being on the ready…on call.

Here are some things I’ve learned with 20 years of parenting on the books:

  • This is a tough job with wonderful rewards.
  • Of all the things I do, almost nothing is more important than mothering.
  • I am investing in the future as I mother.  I am lengthening my life through their’s.
  • It matters how I parent when they are little.  It matters how I parent when they are bigger.
  • They are important, but my marriage and relationship with their Dad is even more important.
  • I may not be able to do everything I want to do right now, but this is a season.  Someday, I will.
  • After they have grown, they need a coach.  I am still making an impact. 
  • As the parent of a Big, it’s my responsibility to keep the relationship open, alive and healthy.

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He is my firstborn.  He was the guinea pig.

He deserves a gold star for surviving the young, inexperienced, often irrational parenting skills I was working with.  I apologized for said craziness as he graduated from high school.  He laughed.  He has great memories.  He doesn’t remember all the mistakes I have cataloged in my brain.  He knows I’m human and make mistakes.

He laughs as he clearly remembers the crossing over to this realization moment all too well.  The one where our kids realize we are not Perfect.  We laugh.  Apologies and “I love you” go a long way to righting the mistakes and healing the hurts.  We work hard to do the best we can with what we have at the time.  Life together is a beautiful ride.

If there is one thing I can look back and see, it is this.

As we take the imperfectness of our human parenting and pair it with the perfectness of God, we can lay our children in His hands and trust for the very best outcome.  No, it won’t always look clean and pretty.  And, there will probably even be some stink.  But inviting God into our parenting journey ensures spiritual consequences we could never create on our own.

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Further, not being a perfect parent, requires our full trust in God.  I’m not sure how parents do this thing without God.  I have to rely on Him to lead the way with each beautifully unique child.  There is no other way to go.  That’s a risk I’m not willing to take.  My shortcomings are miraculously shored up by the One who leads the way.

So, maybe you are still on the upswing with Littles hanging on to your legs.  The days are too long and your energy is running short.  A break would be good right about now.  I hear ya!

Just know, it matters.  It matters a lot.  And, when you get 20 years out from now, your heart will know it for sure, too.  It’s amazing what being on the flip side, at least with one child, will do for perspective.  And, thankfully, I can say I don’t really have too many regrets….other than the insanity that may have taken over from time to time.  But, hey, none of us is perfect….right?  As my father used to say, “It builds character!”

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