I think I’ve cried a dozen times this week. The days leading up to my first born’s 18th birthday unexpectedly hit me with so much sadness. John [my husband] doesn’t get it. How could he? He’s not a mom. He said, “It’s not like he’s joining the military or leaving. Everything is exactly the same.” He even has another full year of high school. He’s right, but it doesn’t change my feelings. He didn’t mean that in an unsupportive way; he was trying to help me feel better. It’s silly to be sad about kids getting older, I guess. But I look through photos of my little guy (who’s now 6’1″ and 270 pounds), and I can’t help but feel sad. And what’s really silly (and very dangerous) is shoving those sad feelings and keeping them from coming to the surface. I learned that the hard way. Any time I feel sad, I let the tears flow.
And what’s weird is the dichotomy of feelings. Tears are flowing down my face and I relive our memories, and simultaneously, I feel so grateful and happy we made it this far!! For a few years in there, I definitely had my doubts! He was not an easy kid to raise. He was only four when his dad and I separated, and shortly after, I remember him throwing a huge tantrum at bedtime and peeing in the corner of his bedroom. He was absolutely distraught not having his dad at home. Not seeing his dad for weeks or months on end was almost too much for him to bear. And the tantrums and outbursts were almost too much for me to bear. I can’t believe we made it through. And yet, I wish I could snap my fingers and make him four years old again. I wish I could lay in my bed with his head on my stomach while I read to him. But now, he’s so fun and respectful and responsible! Shocking really.
Got me thinking. So much of our identity is wrapped up in being a mom. Who are we when they don’t need us anymore? (Of course, they still do, but they don’t want that to be true and don’t act like they need us.) I talk about the letting go exercise in my book and how much that helped me let go of hard things in the past and move on to create a new and different future. But I never thought I’d have to let go of the happy memories and let go of my babies being babies. I never though that it would be difficult (and mandatory) to let go of the times when it was just the three of us in our rented house with the sh*tty carpets. (that turned out to be a blessing because Id didn’t have to pay through the nose after they ruined everything!) But now I’m realizing that letting go of how anything used to be, even the amazing wonderful times, is just as important. And the one part of life that we can’t change is that it’s always changing. I guess that’s why growth is a never-ending game.
You can read all the books and talk to a hundred moms with teenage daughters, but it won’t really help you that much b. You just have to experience it for yourself. You don’t know what’s it’s like to have a teenage daughter until you have one. You don’t know what it’s like to have a son turn into an “adult” until you have one. And, PS, who decided that eighteen years of age is an “adult”, anyway? He came in to my office a few days ago to fill our paperwork because he is going to start working for the car dealership John runs, and he asked me how to write out the date. ‘Give me the numbers, mom.” He’s not an adult! But he’s old enough to die for our country. Puts a whole new perspective on these wars and those boy who serve.
But I digress….
Who are we when our kids don’t need us anymore? Our identity is not just mom. That’s our job. Our role. Our most important role, yes, But that is not who we are. So much of our conversation is wrapped up in work, too. What’s the first question we ask people when we meet for the first time: “What do you do?” We are not our titles, either. We are much more. We are children of God and incredible spiritual creatures having one helluva human experience. That is the only permanence. Yes, God trusted us with His babies and gave them to us on purpose because we were the ones that he chose to raise them. And, He wants us to have a full, fulfilling, joyful, meaningful journey when we’re on this planet. Before and after the period of time when our kids need us. I am constantly reminded of this especially this week. My baby is a man. I became a mother 18 years ago yesterday. And I think it’s our duty and our privilege to continue to learn and grow. To continue to take risks and learn from new experiences, stretch out of our comfort zone so we can continue to be the best mom, human, wife, grandmother, [insert role] we can be.
Kids eventually grow up and move out (so I’ve heard anyway!) and we are left to, well, our own devices as they say! But our kids never stop watching us, learning from us, whether it’s what to do, or what not to do. They’re learning both. I want them to see their mom pursuing her dreams and her passions. I still want them to see me love and serve my husband. I still want them to see me learn, read, serve my body, even if they don’t want to do it. They’ll always learn, and I think that’s what keeps me going. And I know I will always be guided, and I will listen to my intuition for what God wants me to do and then you can’t go wrong! You can be wrong but in the end, you can’t go wrong.
So embrace the growth. No matter how hard it is or how many times you cry. Lean in. Learn from it. Don’t let that one experience define you but do let it transform you.
And if you have any tips about adjusting to teenagers becoming adults, PLEASE send them my way.