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Boys 2 Men

Monday, my boys turned 13. Teenagers. I just don't think I can breeze past it with posts about fundraising statuses and giveaways. It's just too big of a deal.


As luck of the draw would have it, USCIS scheduled our fingerprinting for Monday, my boys birthday. So we made a day of it, since Joe had to take off of work anyway. We went to Tampa, hung out a bit, and the boys spent some of their birthday cashola.

Gone are the days that they want to go to Build a Bear or the Lego store. No Power Ranger costumes or DS games on their list this year.

Nathan bought a BB gun pistol. Josh: a guitar.

I'm had some time for intentional self-reflection, to try and determine if I have deep, pent up sadness and grief over the loss of innocence of these two boys who are becoming men right before my eyes. Thirteen years have flown by.

For sure, I get a little pang in my heart when I remember big wheels and Veggie Tales and skinned knees and first skateboards and the little electric guitars they used to jam to Switchfoot tunes on in front of the stereo.

And I remember how they needed me to cuddle with them right after they woke up from their naps--just for a little while--until they were fully awake. I remember Puppy and Bunny, the stuffed animals that went everywhere with us...for years. I remember how I taught them to read, and Joe taught them how to swim, and they taught THEMSELVES how to ride a bike.

Their childhood is etched in my mind, and I hope those memories never fade. It was a busy time for me, of having babies and running a home all day and collapsing exhausted at 8pm, thankful for bedtime. It some ways, its more like a package of memories than individual ones--like watercolors that run together and bleed into each other. Colors stronger in some areas than in others, but all coming together to form a beautiful collage. Colors of all the ways we spent our hours and all the routines that made up our days. How is it that at that time, I looked forward to the ease of having older children, but that now I look back and think how simple things were then?? Diapers, snacks, naps. Parks, sprinklers, sandboxes. No meant no and I didn't have to explain why. It just was.

Now all the black and white seems to fade to grey. Not that right and wrong are blurred. But what was so obvious to me then (don't touch the stove, do eat your green beans) has been replaced with more complex situations that J & N have to begin to figure out for themselves. Who am I and why did God put me here? Why should I believe in the gospel when so many other ways to live seem to offer me happiness and pleasure? Does God intend for me to share my life with someone and how do I determine who that will be? Do I want to go to college? How do I want to invest my gifts and resources and abilities? Will I spend all those things on myself or use them to benefit others? As my boys become men, they have to begin to choose for themselves. And I have to get out of the way. I have to begin to let go.

Because ultimately, any struggle I have with these changes is about control. When they were little, I had all the control. Do what I say or end up in time out. Obey or loose a privilege. What I said, went. It was definitive and absolute.

Now, what I say is good, but it is only one way, in a world where there can be several good ways. Most of the time, I pick somewhat arbitrarily what my way will be. Sure, I have principles and truths that I base my "way" on, but if I'm honest, it's usually what works best for me. You can't pour the milk because you might spill it and so only Mommy can pour the milk... Hannah gets to go first because you had it first yesterday and she had it one millisecond less than you, and even though she is whining, ladies first, right?...You can't go to the skatepark today because I have too much to do and don't have time to drive you over there, even if it is a beautiful day and you've been inside all day and could use the exercise... My way still stands, because I'm the parent. But it is certainly not the only way, and often I'm realizing I need to choose the ways that offer them a chance to be responsible or take ownership or decide for themselves. It usually costs me more and is full of risk. What if they don't choose well? With every little bit of freedom I hand them, I let go of a little more of my ability to control the outcome.

And I know, deep down, I never had control. They belonged to Him long before they belonged to me. Any control I felt I had was only something He was using to shape the lives of my boys into exactly what He had in mind for them. I am a pawn. One of many, in fact, that He will use to lead and guide and direct my boys into the future He has for them.

That is very freeing. My boys are not defined by being Rachel's son. Yes, they are my sons, but they are so much more than that. I am one of the many influences in their lives. An important one, granted, and I have never taken that responsibility lightly. But I take comfort in knowing that my Father knows I am not perfect, therefore I will not parent perfectly, and yet He still chose me for this job. He has already used my parenting, even my mistakes thus far, to shape and mold the character of my children. Soon they won't be under my authority anymore-- my 18 or so years will be up. And while I hope they value my input as adults, their requirement to submit to it will be removed. Their development is His work to complete, not mine.

So am I sad? Do I get choked up remembering? Yea. A little.

But so much stronger is the fullness of joy and pride I feel, at watching them prepare to leave this nest and spread their wings. They are responsible. They are respectful and thoughtful. They are witty and clever and way better at mechanical things that I will ever be. They have taken ownership of their faith, and I see more and more of Jesus seeping through the cracks of their lives than I ever have before. I know they are His. And I trust Him.

I do not fear what is ahead. I do not expect it to be easy, any more than I expected parenting an infant or toddler to be easy. But I am ready. And I am ready to embrace all the joy and memories that this stage will offer. I am excited to see and experience all the colors that will create this new collage.

And Josh & Nathan: if you ever stumble upon this post, know this: you mom is your #1 fan. I love your jokes and enjoy your company and think you are brilliant. I love all your skateboard tricks and guitar riffs and as far as I'm concerned, your BB's hit the bulls-eye every time. During these teen years, I will probably yell when you eat all the luncheon meat on one sandwich and nag at you to pick up your dirty laundry on your bedroom floor and ask you repeatedly to turn down your amp and probably want too many hugs in front of your friends. But in my heart, I am hoping beyond hope that God will use me, just a little bit more before you're gone, to help refine and detail the masterpiece He is creating. Because you are that. His masterpiece. Men of God. It is a privilege to be your mom and to be a part of your story. I love you.


Erica said...

Okay so thanks for the tears. I'm not sure if its because I could have written this post except for a young lady who is about to turn 13 as well or because I get this on so many levels as I watch my two oldest children change into young adults right before my very eyes. Happy Birthday Josh and Nathan. We are thankful for you BOTH!

Ricky Turner said...

Very nice post, Rachel. Time certainly does fly by. As your next door neighbor, who would in most situations normally be filled with fear and loathing at the thought of having 2 teenage boys next door getting older every day, I can tell you truly, you should be very proud of them. I've seen quite a few moments of pretty inspiring parenting out of you and Joe over the years, too, so it's no surprise they're such good young men. Congrats on your success so far. You guys keep doing what you do. We're lucky to have you by us.

Connie said...

Hey Rachel,
I'm with Erica in the land of tears welling up in my eyes. I love your posts and heart...happy belated birthday to J and N from your friends in Oregon!

Irene W. Watassek said...

Beautiful post for your boys' special day! I was there and I think I took the picture of you and Joe carrying Walser papooses. It still made me cry to read your words of love and faith.
I love you Toots!

The B Family said...

Hi! I just got the comment you left on our blog yesterday. You are more than welcome to share our video. Thanks for asking and thanks for following our journey--I'm enjoying following yours!