Motherhood Musings: Better Titled As My Current Random Thoughts
When I am out of sorts and feeling sad, this screen and keyboard are a source of solace for me. Bear with me as I pour my feelings into this space. I am the mother of three adult aged daughters and one seventeen-year-old son. Our three girls live stateside, two together and one on the other side of the country.
This season of parenting, or even our unique situation, isn't discussed quite so often. It isn't natural to talk about that day the birds leave the nest because when you have four under five, that day seems like an eternity away. As in, I wasn't even capable of imagining that day because just surviving was hard enough. Although there is a disclaimer here, mothers that were ahead of me in parenting did find it helpful to tell me repeatedly that this time with young ones goes so quickly. Well my friend, when I was changing umpteen diapers a day, nursing a baby, driving to and from all manner of activities and constantly in the kitchen whipping up magic from apple sauce, the clock was ticking painfully slowly.
Yet, here we are: three adult aged children, one on his way to eighteen this year and maturing by the second. While I have loved every single moment of being their Mama, truly, this season is an entirely new set of bittersweet and heartache.
Our four have brought me inexplicable joy. I found myself through them. It may have taken me twenty plus years to do so, but hey, we all learn at our own pace, right? Being a teen mom meant I could barely take care of myself yet alone another human. But I did. I mean we did. And then we added three other humans to our crew before we even knew how to be twenty-three-years old.
The road has not been easy, and it seems too cliché to write those words, but oh how true they are. All this to preface these words with context, as in the context of: I only know what I know. My experiences are mine alone and this motherhood journey is as different as apples and asparagus. I want to be sympathetic to the condition of others' hearts and longings, their suffering and heartache, and the vast and wide description of "motherhood" as it is. I wouldn't claim to be an expert on any other mothering than my own. And even then, there is much room for debate.
Motherhood. The subject at hand. Currently the tide has me between letting go, holding on for dear life and falling to my knees begging for wisdom and peace, now more than ever before. There is a strange dynamic that has come to life in these parenting "adult" years. I could string together some "Christian-ese" words here that might make sense to some, but ultimately my point is to make the disclaimer that I have been intentional.
Praying, even before I knew whom I was praying to, hoping beyond hope that I would have relationships with my children. True and abiding relationships that mattered, long suffering, rooted in love and deeper than the surface level that seemed so normal. Now I find myself being challenged here in the in-between, fully aware that the extent to which I am needed in daily life is not a reflection upon said relationship.
I know that independence is looked upon as a sign of success in parenting. Yes, I believe that as well. But I do know that entering a stage where need assumes a different role than before can be guttural. As in, sometimes the emotions flood and I cannot control or name them. And then when needed it seems the weight of circumstance is heavy.
I share wisdom, experience, offer support, unconditional love, advice when asked and then I wait. I pray. I worry. Please tell me you understand this. I find myself wondering if my example was always what it should have been, what it needed to be. I worry that I didn't teach them everything I intended to. I worry about what they think of my way of mothering. Still. I contemplate the mistakes, the harshly spoken words, the disciplinary action, the values. The foundation. I think about it all. It is beautiful and brutal; "brutiful". In all the best ways.
I wholeheartedly know to my core that nothing in my life has stretched or shaped me more than being a mother. Maybe perhaps, being a wife, possibly because I had to learn both roles simultaneously. Akin to jumping in the deep end without knowing how to swim. For me, that seemed to be the best way. Of course, that leaves ample room for improvement and a built-in excuse that I was doing all I could with what I had, blah, blah and more blah.
As I was discussing this very season we are in with a dear friend, she shared with me how cruel it is that God gifts us these precious babies - we grow them, nurture, protect and teach them and then they leave us. That marks their becoming, the leaving. Tethering themselves to something or someone other than us, the ones that brought them into this world. If that isn't the definition of "brutiful" I don't know what is.
Now what? How does one navigate the ebb and flow, with grace? With love? Full of continuous intention and holding it all loosely at the same time. I would like to see the resources please. In my limited experience I haven't found much in the way of information or guidance on this subject. Sure, a few sound bites here and there, a mention or nod from mothers in the empty nest season, but come on, someone send me a life line here. Seriously. How do I do this? Does the heart wrenching ache ever go away? I think not. It may lessen with time but then I think it won't because surely, I won't miss them less or wish they were here with me any less. So, no. I am rebuking that thought this instant.
Sure, it is an honor to witness our grown children becoming, stepping into their roles as "adults,” finding their own way. Calling less. Having friends that I don't know. Going to people's houses where their parents aren't home or better yet, who live by themselves. As in there aren't any real grown-ups there. Ok, I need to put an end to this rant. I just laughed out loud at myself. And then again when I thought of what my grown-up girls would say to those last few sentences. Now I'm crying. Someone hold me. Maybe bring me a croissant too, those always help.
Here on the other side of my chaotic thought patterns is the blip on the screen that reminds me that soon all the chicks really will flee. Yes, the word choice was on purpose. For them it may feel like "fleeing”. I won't take it personally. In fact, I would try my best to understand and relate because I was seventeen once and running away across state lines. A story for another day. The reminder is that it will be my husband Jared and me, alone, somewhere at some time. Perhaps I'll long for the days when the house was full of noise and schedules and more chaos. But just maybe I am a tad excited to imagine what it will be like when it is just the two of us. We have never had that.
From the moment we've been married there have been little ones surrounding. There has been a taste of the season to come here and there with grown up trips, date nights, and the such. But still the daily living together, without any dependents in the house is not something we've experienced. So there. The dichotomy exists. Another accurate portrayal of "brutiful".
Now don't misunderstand me, I am of the mindset that parenting never ceases. Thank the good Lord. The direction changes. Needs and conversations change. We change. Our roles morph into what's necessary and required and paramount to the child, ahem, adult. Yes. That much is true. I'm so grateful it doesn't end when they land on their 18th birthday. They may think it ends but goodness no.
Last year, as our Thing 2 was graduating and preparing to embark on a six-month overseas gap year, a dear friend of ours was watching her first born graduate and head off to university in another state. During this time, we had many chats about this transition, the state of our hearts and the condition of our childrens’ independent nature. She offered an analogy that spoke to my heart and painted such an accurate description of the relationship during all this. Hopefully I don't butcher her beautiful words, but it was something along the lines of this: said child is swimming in the ocean, further and deeper, into the waves, all while we are standing on the shore watching. They continue to look back, hoping we're still standing there, watching them at the same time they are telling us, “No, I don't need you. I can do it myself.” A life line of sorts. And if that isn't the most "brutiful" thought I don't know what is.
Here's to all us mothers. The ones living in the same household as their children. The ones who have welcomed home adult children, taken in others that aren’t theirs by blood, the ones hoping for reconciliation and returning. All the mothers living across oceans and hemispheres and continents. Mothers with littles and bigs and ages in between. We can do this. Isn’t it a privilege that we are able to do this? Reminding myself of that truth today.
About the Author
Gathering people around the table, sharing stories and welcoming all to that space are some of Leanna’s favorite things. She recently celebrated her one year anniversary here in Vienna with her husband and her teenage son. Leanna also is learning to navigate the logistical and emotional journey of her three adult daughters residing in the United States (her home country). Additionally, with having experienced multiple moves, she is no stranger to the mental and emotional challenges related to living life in a foreign place - whether that be a new city, state and/or country. Leanna shares her journey on her blog, The Six Hansons.