The Parent Trap

My firstborn turns 14 today. FOURTEEN. I know what you’re thinking — fourteen isn’t exactly  milestone; what’s the big deal?

I couldn’t tell you why the enormity of having a 14-year old is hitting me so hard today, but my mind is flooding with memories and I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. So indulge me and go on this trip down memory lane with me. I promise I’ll get to my point and hopefully it will be worth the ride.

Growing up I thought about being lots of things–a singer, a writer, a counselor, a teacher, a free-spirited world traveler (hey, a girl can dream)–but I never wanted to be anything more than I wanted to be a mom. That was the one thing that never changed. Some teenage girls dream of what boy she’ll date and eventually marry, what her wedding dress will look like, what kind of house she’ll live in. Me, I dreamed of changing diapers. Okay, okay, I wasn’t that bad. But I did envision miniature fingers wrapped around mine, sweet baby giggles, and hearing a tiny, perfect person call me Mommy.

When I was 19, I learned of some medical issues and was told it would be difficult for me to get pregnant and, depending on how long I waited, it may not happen at all. If there was anything in the world that could completely pull the rug out from underneath me, that was it. I underwent some unpleasant treatments (Putting my body through menopause at age 19? Sure, why not? Sounds delightful. Not.) and slugged through major depression along with it. My grades slipped, I stopped attending classes, I called in sick to work too much, I spent days in bed, crying… clearly I was in bad shape; I couldn’t focus on anything except the obsessive thought that my messed up body might never carry a child.

I spent time in constant prayer. And I mean constant. In all honesty, God was probably thinking “Okay, kid, I get it! Give me a break, will ya?” But seriously, I lived on Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I delighted… and delighted… and begged and cried, and delighted some more. And then, somehow a change began to take place inside of me. The more I prayed, the more I poured out my fears and heartaches to my Father, the more I began to truly delight in Him. As my heart grew closer to my Savior, I began thinking differently. I realized that even if my body was broken, there were other ways I could be a mom. I’d never thought about adoption before, but I grew to feel that I could easily love another woman’s child as my own. I accepted that my womb may never be full, but my arms and my heart still could be. I gave it over to God. I let go.

Fast-forward a couple years. While children dressed in costumes and went door to door for candy, I labored in a hospital bed, anxiously trying my best to bring forth the child God had graciously allowed to grow inside of me. After a very long and difficult labor (not that any labor is easy, but my body truly did not want to cooperate), at 12:39am on November 1, I got to meet my son.

Ohhhhhh man, the rush of pure love and adoration felt in that moment…there’s nothing else in the world like it. You moms know what I’m talking about. Love at first sight does exist, and it comes in the form of ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. God had given me the desire of my heart, and I was head over heels. In those first moments of holding him, I thought I could never possibly love him any more than I did right then. I was wrong. As he’s grown, so has my love for him. It’s amazing how a parent’s heart works, isn’t it?

God is a bit of a show off, you know. He had answered my prayer and made me a mom, but he didn’t stop there. In the less-than-five years that followed this momentous day, He blessed me with two more sons and a daughter. After He carried me through my divorce, He blessed me once again with another son and daughter through my second (and final!) marriage. SIX kids! Six kids for this woman who once feared she’d have none. And with each one, my love has grown bigger and bigger than I ever imagined possible. God is SO good. (But you see now what I’m saying about showing off, am I right?)

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So, here I am today, on my son’s 14th birthday, marveling at the road we’ve traveled to get here, and all I can think is… it’s going too fast. In just another four short years he’ll be considered an adult; old enough to vote, to fight in a war, to live on his own out from under our care. I have only four more short years to teach him everything I want him to know, to prepare him for being on his own, for one day taking care of his own family. Four more short years of squeezing in all the hugs and snuggles and silliness that I can get. If the last fourteen have managed to go by this fast, how much quicker will these next four escape us?

Somehow in the beautiful chaos of raising 6 kids, the years have just slipped by under our radar like some kind of time-stealing ninja. And now it’s crunch time.

But this is not the trap. No, it gets even better. Not only does time speed up when we want so desperately for it to slow down, in these precious years of teaching them, guiding them, protecting them, and readying them for adulthood, we’re preparing them to do the one thing we dread the most… leaving us. This is the Parent Trap: preparing our children to grow up and leave us when more than anything we want them to stay.

We’ll have to let them go.

Like all those years ago when I prayed for the desires of my heart to be fulfilled, I had to first let go. I gave it to God, and He never let me regret it. Soon, far too soon, I’ll have to let my children go. I already know it will be the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. (And I have to do it six times! The cruelty of this has not escaped my notice.) But when that day comes, like I did that day years ago and have done every day since, I’ll be thankful for the gift I’ve been given and trust God with the rest of the plan. They are, after all, His children too. And as hard as it is to imagine, His love for them is even bigger than mine.

I just hope that for the next few precious years, time could slow down just a little, just enough to be able to bask in every crazy, chaotic, beautiful memory in the making.

Happy birthday, son. You were and always will be such a precious gift to me.

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