Letting go is a better grip.
Sixteen years ago this week my life changed forever.
When I found out I was pregnant I was 21 years old. I had been married for almost 3 years, but it was a little earlier than we had "planned" to start a family. I had always known I would be a stay at home mom, and while I looked forward to being a mom--I didn't know if I was ready yet. I loved the freedom we had--just Joe and me. I loved my job and I loved working. I enjoyed my independence. I enjoyed my sleep. I knew this meant a big shift for me, and I felt unprepared and inexperienced.
Sure, I ran and got a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting. And it was fun to skim through it, look at sketches, and compare the size of the fetus to a walnut. But mostly, I began to voraciously read anything I could get my hands on about caring for babies and child raising and parenting. THAT was what terrified me. While in my womb, this kid seemed to be fairly easy to handle, pretty good at fining for himself. Granted, my ankles looked like sausages and I had to pee every half hour, but all in all--he was fairly low maintenance.
But--what about after this rug-rat entered the world??!! Suddenly, it was up to me to make sure he eats enough and sleeps enough and poops enough and learns to walk and learns to spell and learns to ride a bike and be kind and love Jesus?? Suddenly I was the one responsible to make sure another human being didn't eat crayons or pull the dog's tail or fall down the stairs or play with matches or date too soon or do drugs or--heck, basically make sure he makes it to 18 in one piece!!! That's alot of pressure, people!! So I read everything I could get my hands on, afraid I would be the one parent that security stops at the exit of the hospital and says--hey, what idiot signed a baby over to this lady??!!
But as the days went by, the idea grew on me (literally!), and by the time I went in for my sonogram at 22 weeks, I was excited. Would it be a boy or a girl?? Either sounded wonderful. The doc had told me I was gaining a bit too quickly, and might want to ease off the big macs, but hey--if I knew anything about pregnancy, I knew that it was my chance to really give Joe a run for his money at dinnertime since I was, after all, eating for two. :) And hey, maybe I was further along than I thought! That was a possibility too. We watched the little monitor of the sonogram machine for anything that resembled shape of a baby, and hoped at least the doctor could make sense of the one dimensional black and white mumbo jumbo.
Doc smiled. He pointed to a white blob. Look--there's your boy. I smiled and looked up at Joe. He had tears in his eyes. A son. We were sharing a moment together---when I felt the doc abruptly move the wand through the goopy jelly all the way to the other side of my stomach, and said, "Aaaaand, there's another boy."
'scuse me??!! TWINS. Joe made some crack about becoming a TV evangelist, and I asked the doc if he was sure he knew how to use that thing. Maybe he read the tea leaves wrong. But he was pretty confident. We were having TWO babies. Not just one. He smiled and said never mind what he said about my weight gain. Looks like I was allowed to have all the big macs I wanted.
So if I had built up any hope that all my reading over the last few months had prepared me even the slightest to be a mom-- it vanished. TWINS. TWO babies. Now I was REALLY gonna screw this thing up.
Luckily, I have a husband who finds joy and privilege in challenges. He was over the moon. When I asked where the heck we'd put the second one, he said we'd get another crib and another car seat and another stroller--no biggie. When I was put on bedrest for 8 weeks, he picked up the slack all while working full time, finishing his last semester of seminary before graduating, and candidating for a pastoral position. I knew from day one--we were in this together--and that helped. He was the first to change Josh's diaper and the first to give Nathan a bottle in the NICU. Sometimes I think I learned much about mothering by watching my husband love those babies so well.
And, it turns out, as days went by, and babies grew into toddlers who grew into little kids who grew into bigger kids, I felt I was in a rhythm. Certainly not that I had it all figured out, but I had grown into this role and mostly knew what I needed to do. I nurtured, I cocooned, I loved, I protected, I instructed, I corrected, I held tightly and I did everything in my power to communicate: you are mine and I am proud of you and I will always love you no matter what and I will always be right here by your side so you can feel secure and safe and treasured and adored.
Then, something crazy happened. These two eldest of mine, they became teenagers. And I began to wrestle. Because what had worked for years wasn't exactly working anymore, and I sensed that wasn't all a bad thing. They were changing, and I, too, had to change.
The teen years are the counterintuitive stage of parenting. Everything inside of you as a mom tells you to hold tightly, shelter and protect your little ones from harm and difficulty and pain. It's on you and you alone--no one else will fight for your kids like you, no one else will have their best in mind or put them first like you, no one else will be responsible for them ultimately but you. They need you.
But then, they're teens, and--they don't. Maybe not overnight, but it can feel that way. Now you're suppose to nudge them away from you, towards more independence and more responsibility, to a place where they don't need you. Let out the rope. And let go.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Letting go. And holding on.
Josh & Nathan-- 16 years ago you gave me the title and profession I am most proud to bear. I thought I knew what love was and what it meant to be in love, but I never understood the nature of love until you came along. You bring me great joy. Yes, you are handsome and funny and smart. Yes, you've accomplished much and are good at so many things I lost count a long time ago. But watching you become men--- embracing your gifts along with admitting your weaknesses, being strong yet remaining humble, taking leadership while respectfully submitting--- is has blown me away. Thankful for the men you are. Happy 16th Birthday.