Each morning, when my alarm goes off, I wake up to the staticky sounds of a local Christian radio station. As this is one of the only radio stations I seem to get with any clarity in Chilliwack, it’s that or the obnoxious factory installed alarm, incessantly blaring me to consciousness. So Praise 106.5 it is. I’m not a big fan of the morning show, though it’s highly plausible that me not being a morning person might be to blame for that. Anyone who is that chipper at 6am I find slightly annoying.
Every day they welcome their listeners and it always goes something like “Whether you are old or young” or “whether you are new to faith or a long time believer” or “Whether you are at home or at work…You are welcome here.” I rarely pay attention as my brain is a little foggy first thing.
But yesterday morning, just as I was about to slam my fist down on the snooze button I heard, “Whether you are sending your baby off to college or sending him off to kindergarten…you are welcome here.” I stopped, fist still poised to strike, and thought, “How did they know?!”
As the fog began to lift I realized that they were talking about people in two different stages of life. The only thing is, there are a few of us who happen to be doing both at the same time. I was only hours away from bringing my baby to his first morning of kindergarten and just two weeks before that, I had driven 26 hours to drop off my other ‘baby’ for his first year of college.
In the months leading up to these life changing moments I’ve waffled between excitement on their behalf and apprehension on my own. Their world was about to open up, learning new things and experiencing so many adventures. But hand in hand with excitement came a hesitancy to embrace this new adventure as I watched everything about to change.
For indeed, change was upon me.
For 18 years now I’ve been a mom and as unhealthy as it may be to find your identity in only one part of who you are, being a mom has been one of the largest parts of my identity.
For 18 years I’ve had a preschooler at home, a companion in the car to chatter to me, a helper for every cookie I bake and a little hand in mine wherever I go.
For 18 years I’ve known the daily ins and outs of my boys’ lives, what they eat for dinner, who they hang out with and even at times their joys and disappointments. So there was no denying the fact that life was going to change.
I’ve heard plenty of well meaning encouragement, telling me Caleb will be home before I know it or that I’ll love my moments of freedom when Levi is off at school. It isn’t as if I couldn’t see the benefits of having a few hours to myself or being responsible for the daily schedules of 4 kids instead of 5. To book a haircut for myself without having to find a babysitter…oh the bliss. To fold the 35 boxers in the laundry basket instead of 42…oh the joy. But I still wasn’t convinced and as the end of August approached, I was faced head on with the possibility that I might not handle these changes well. What if I cried and never stopped?!…oh the horror.
I remember back to another time when I wept. We were in one of the darkest times of our lives as we struggled with the pain of infertility. In the midst of my grief someone thought to be comforting by telling me to just be thankful for Caleb. I don’t know if the shock I felt registered on my face but I have never forgotten that moment. How could they have thought, even for a second, that I wasn’t thankful?
If anything, the grief I felt heightened my feelings of thankfulness as I took nothing for granted in the precious gift of my son. I struggled with it for a long time. But as the years passed and life has given me opportunities to gain wisdom, I have learned that genuine sadness and tremendous joy, two emotions that seem at odds with each other, can coexist in the same moment. They are not exclusive. And as a parent, I have had a million opportunities to learn this first hand.
Swelling with Pride
When the day finally came to say my ‘goodbyes’, were there tears when I stood in the parking lot watching Caleb hug his little brothers good bye? You betcha.
Did I squeeze him extra hard and struggle to let go? Absolutely.
Will I miss him and find the wait till Christmas long? Definitely.
But though my tears dampened a few kleenexes, did I cry the whole way home? No. I proudly watched him walk off with confidence and thanked God for blessing me with the gift of this young man.
As I helped Levi hang up his backpack and put on his indoor shoes did I realize how much I’d miss my little fella? For sure.
Did I linger a few extra minutes by the door? Yep.
But I watched him march with confidence to his place in the circle and my heart swelled with pride. As I walked to my car, my hand felt empty without his warm little fingers in mine, but I thanked God for blessing me with the gift of this precious little man.
And then thanked Him a hundred times over that I have another 13 years at least before I have to drop that one off at college!!