Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Parenting “Game Over?”

A couple of weeks ago, our youngest daughter Hannah turned 21 years old. 


When our four girls were young and we were in the midst of training wheels and diapers and absurd elementary school projects made with popsicle sticks, I thought that when our youngest turned 21, my job would be over.  Like, whoa, you finished the race, sit back and have an iced coffee.  How can I describe how it feels?  It is not the idyllic floating on the Lazy River ride at the amusement park, but more like an harrowing roller coaster, the meanest, steepest, fastest of them all, your seatbelt no longer works and you cannot hold on.  There are precious times indeed, rich and delightful, but also times when I cannot but fall on my knees.  And through the years, as each of the girls passed this milestone, I have realized that being MamaBear is not over, just changed from one likeness into another.


In many ways, it was a lot easier when the cries in the night were just down the hallway and monsters under the bed were vanquished instantly by turning on the light.  Now in their 20s, more than any other time in their lives, the stakes are really high.  The decisions get bigger than “should I make a turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jelly?”  The consequences are harder to deal with than being sent to the principal’s office or grounded “for the rest of your life.”    The foes are no longer the bullies at school who go back to their own houses at the end of the day.  And Mama can’t do it for you anymore.   At this point, parenting is not “game over,” it is “congratulations, you just graduated to a more challenging level.”


I have been reluctantly working myself out of a job for a long time.  I have LOVED being a mom, not the master and commander type but the supporting actress (“what can I do for you?”)  I will always be their mom, I know that. It just feels like I am no longer needed.  And in a way, a very healthy way, I am not.  I just am learning how to be a different kind of mom.  I can’t do the same things for them, or attempt to correct the injustices in their lives, but I can pray.  Once it was a daughter locked out and unable to find the keys to her apartment,  it was 10 o’clock at night,  and I was 553 miles away.   A daughter in the jungles of Ecuador and another in Brooklyn.  A new job, glasses misplaced, a placement test, and the perennial “I can’t take this job another day.”  Or facing decisions that will profoundly impact the next four years …or a lifetime.   I can pray.  And I pray every day that they will stand in the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground, that God would be at the very core of who they are, their covering, their delight, and the focus of their worship.  And that they, O LORD, will be wiser than me. 


I can’t be there anymore, even though I want to.  But God is.  They need to know that.  And so do I.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I am still a few years away, so I may need some good "reminding" when the time approaches!!!!
But for know I am just sitting here crying about it =)!!!
Love to you!

liz nelson said...

Hey, I remember when you packed your last lunch after over 2 decades of lovingly placing in those bags a bit of your heart too. We still pack bags, now it's to go see them. We still leave some of our heart.
It's helpful for me to remember that when Jesus served up lunch, He offered praise, then the miracles of multiplication took place. Yep, we are at our best just offering praise and letting God do with those lunches whatever He pleases. (easier said than done :))