When my son was born, he caught a cold in the hospital just before coming home. His little nostrils were plugged, and his breathing produced the most horrid rattling sound. In the first few days home, I stayed awake as long as I could, watching his tiny chest go up and then down. And when I couldn’t fight sleep any longer, I told God I couldn’t watch him anymore. I would need him to do it for me.
Moms get advice from the minute they announce they are pregnant. Parenting books and pregnancy books tell you what to expect and how to get through each day and stage.
And somewhere along the line, with more kids in tow and more experiences under your belt, you start to think maybe you’ve got it down. Things fall into place.
There are bumpy phases and trying times and little things you notice that elicit prayer, but you manage. Sometimes you get through smoothly, and other times you are a mess in every imaginable way, but looking back, it all slips into the we-got-through-it category.
High fives all around.
In some corner of your mind, you know and pray for the day your children leave. You want your children to be independent. You pray they find godly spouses who treat them well. You want them to have families of their own if that is God’s will for their lives.
But when it happens, it’s hard to prepare for the emotions.
Ten days before my son’s wedding, with absolutely no warning, the tears started. And despite my best effort, I couldn’t stop crying. I woke up the next morning with swollen eyes and more tears all day.
The following day I had an errand, so I picked up lunch for my mom and appeared unannounced at her door. Sitting on the bench outside, Mom asked how I was doing. And I told her it was suddenly, all at once, hard.
She told me for the first time ever that after I moved out, she put a chair in my room. And some days, when she missed me, she would go downstairs, sit in that chair, look out the window, and pray for me.
And with tears streaming down my face, I knew I was joining the alumni of women who understand the simultaneous joy and heartbreak of a child leaving their childhood home, God willing, forever.
Over the next few days, the tears were controllable and only momentary, and I thought maybe they were over. It was like a storm that swept in and just as suddenly swept out.
Until I drove up to the venue Friday morning to decorate. And just like that, tears.
And as they arrived, all the moms who had done it before came up to me, knowing, to hug me and let me know this was part of what it is to be a mom.
We pray for these children before they arrive, and we hold on to them and nurture them. And little by little as they grow, we let them go: to school, to sports camp, or to a friend’s house. And then they drive. They drive away, but they keep coming back.
Until the day that you know they won’t. And they shouldn’t. And you’re happy. And you’re sadder than you’ve ever been. And you want this for them, but there’s an ache that you can’t seem to shake.
Did I cry at my son’s wedding? Only a little. In fact, I was so happy that day. I was taken off guard when I saw him for the first time in his suit, surrounded by his groomsmen, and those pesky tears showed up out of nowhere. I was able to give my speech, and I danced our dance with no tears.
On Sunday, the day after the wedding, another mom came up to me after church. Her daughter is moving several states away this week to do amazing things. And this mom is so happy. The tears won’t stop. And we hugged. Because she too is part of the alumni of mothers letting go.
We love our children, and they were only ours to hold for a little while. And now God will hold them when we can’t . . . as he always has.