When asked if I have kids, I answer yes. They are still my kids even if three of them are in their twenties, and two are teenagers. The Mom feelings haven’t changed much since I felt the first fluttering in my belly and began to worry about their wellbeing. Now that they have survived chewing on Legos, climbing monkey bars, and running around the block playing manhunt (teenage tag / hide and seek,) without too many broken bones, I have new worries as they venture out in young adult life. How will they pay their college loans? Will they drive safely? Will they still have faith in God? I have this gnawing feeling that everything is out of my control now. Probably because it is.
When they were young, I could fool myself into thinking I had some control. I shopped for their food, cooked the meals I wanted them to have, and dressed them in the non-designer, hand-me-down outfits I liked. Even at a young age they began wiggling out of my clutches. In my obsessive health food stage, when I wouldn’t give them any sugar or processed food, they wouldn’t eat half of what I prepared for their nutritious meals. Slowly, I started allowing a few cereals that came with a toy in the box. Skippy peanut butter replaced the natural stuff—no one wants to stir the unfortunate layer of oil every day. White bread showed up in our kitchen again. I don’t remember if there was a single day I said, “I give up. You win,” but somehow my little ducklings took the lead in the food department. Dinner always included Trader Joe’s chicken nuggets for the pickiest eaters. “Peanut butter on crackers for lunch?” Okay. “Granola bar for breakfast?” Sure, At least you’re eating. Don’t judge until you’ve tried cooking for five kids who inherited different taste buds.
Back to the control issue…I should have realized this was the beginning of loosening the cords I held wrapped around my knuckles. Actually, I would never loosen them voluntarily—it was more of a tug-of-war battle. I need more faith to see God was helping to pull their side across into the mommy-free zone. Not fair at all, but who am I to argue with the Creator of the world? He will remind me that they are his children who I prayed for and was blessed with the opportunity to raise. But I’m a mom, the one who applies Band-Aids and instinctively wants to prevent the booboos. Time to let them make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes.
When the nurse first handed me my eight pound squirming, screaming, perfect baby, she should have warned me the little peanut would grow up and slip out of my arms. So I’m thankful for the days of homeschooling, the days of playing street soccer and stickball, the countless hours of driving kids to sports and sitting on cold benches, and summer days of applying layers of sunblock, smelling like coconuts mixed with cherry ices, and walking home from the beach with a cup of sand stuck to our legs. And nothing compared to snuggling with my freshly bathed, Ivory Soap kids and reading stacks of picture books. Our house was never as clean or quiet as I’d like, but it was never boring, and I went to bed knowing all my kids were safe.
If I worry about all the things that could possibly happen to my kids as they leave for college and travel and commute to jobs and become adults, I won’t be able to think. I’m better off remembering how God encouraged Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Maybe when they officially move out and live on their own, or at least pick up their dirty socks, I’ll stop calling them kids, but I’ll still be Mom who needs a hug now and then.