The other morning I rose early with the sun to meet a friend for exercise. I tiptoed downstairs to the laundry room to get some clean socks, making sure I did not disturb my sleeping son. I moved silently past his bedroom door and then I heard it – my heart cracking and my breath catching in my throat. He was not in that room. He was 13 hours away. I had forgotten.
Have you ever had something happen that makes you so sad you push it way down inside and pretend it isn’t there? Then you dream “real life” dreams that tell you a lie that it never happened and you wake up to the nightmare that it actually has happened.
Well that is my current circumstance. You see, I am the mother of sons. Over the past four years I have awoken countless times with the realization that time is slipping as they grow up and away. The nightmare is my day mare….son number one is gone – now firmly ensconced in college. Son number two will follow very shortly.
The first few days my “sun” (as I call both of them – its an Italian thing) was gone, I was weepy but kept myself busy with answering his texts, sending forgotten items, cleaning his room, keeping him up to date on the family. It was not unlike him being away for a lacrosse camp or a mission trip. My internal clock was measuring time with an eye on the door – that would open and we would see him walk back through it.
I was totally faking it.
It has been 17 days since I have seen my brown-eyed boy and I am a mess. This morning at church I beheld 6 little ones dressed in their best baptismal finery as their proud parents and God-parents dedicated them to an upbringing in Jesus Christ. As the little angels on earth squirmed, cooed, giggled and blubbered, I was brought sharply back to one spring day many years ago when I was that proud mama holding my own gift from God.
“Oh Father, I miss him so,” I whispered.
After service I found my way to the car and drove in silence. Reality was finally hitting me and I sobbed the whole way home.
It is interesting, yesterday I was at a school event with extended family and met myriads of moms and dads who were happy and chipper and very passe’ when sharing that their first-born had just shipped off to college. One mom actually said to me, “Oh yes, my son is 16 hours away – at University of xxxx. I couldn’t be happier! I have less stinky boy laundry, less arguing and more food in the house. Besides, I still have another one. Thank god she goes next year…”
I looked at her like she was from another planet I am sure. I just don’t get that attitude!
As a woman who had some difficulties conceiving initially, I thank God every day that He has blessed me with these boys, yikes – er, young men. You see, it was in becoming a parent that I learned what the love of our Father really was. Had God my Father not softened me and given me a momma’s heart – I could never have understood parental love – nor been able to accept or understand God’s love for me.
As a parent I hurt when they hurt. When they are treated unfairly, I get angry for them. Sometimes I am angry with them and I must stand by and watch the consequences of their actions roll in. I want to protect them, but cannot always do so or they will never grow. I pray over them and sometimes, push, prod and chastise. But I never stop loving them – even if they make mammoth mistakes that they regret. I want them to do their best, not to glorify my parenting, but so that they can become the men God planned them to be….and reflect Him to others…..and that is why as parents, we do what we do….when we love our children in good times and bad, we are just a small reflection of the crazy and magnaminous love that God our Father has for His children too.
Just as my relationship has changed and grown with God over the years, the same must happen with my sons. When my suns were younglings, I held them close, gradually teaching them to stand and then walk on their own. When I was young in my faith, God had to coddle me and hold me very close as I learned to walk with Him.
It took time to develop trust and to understand God’s character – and His will in my life. That personal journey continues. God will never stop being my Father…I will always need Him. I will never stop being their mother…and they will always need me – even if that looks different now than when they were younglings.
A wise friend of mine once said, “our job is to raise and prepare our kids to leave us.” She is right, because if we don’t and they don’t we are failing them as parents – and more importantly – failing God – as it was He who is lending these loved ones to us in the first place and He who has tasked us to sheperd them to Him.
This evening I went into my son’s room and turned on his favourite lamp. His artwork still hung near his bed, posters still plastered here and there. A couple of back up lacrosse sticks stood lonely against the far corner. A pair of forgotten shoes were jammed under his dresser. One of my saved sticky notes to him had fallen out of a desk drawer. I picked it up. “Thank you for being my son. Love u!” it read.
Sigh. It was too quiet. My eyes began to sting with tears as I watched through his window the long shadows gathering in the trees as the sun chased the horizon. “The summer is ebbing; the seasons are changing,” I said to no one.
A few minutes passed as I stood there mulling the metaphor of changing seasons and my life and…. “Oh, snap out of it!” I barked at myself and I turned out the light and stomped upstairs. “I will not wallow in my own misery. This is just post parting depression… I miss him. Yes. But he is doing what we raised him to do and I am doing what I am supposed to do. Thank God I still have his brother here!” I thought.
I looked out the the upstairs window and the sun was gone – but as surely as it will be back tomorrow – my son will return before I know it – with loads of dirty boy laundry…and he’ll be hungry too!;)