What We Didn’t Expect

Lately, when I’m visiting with other parents, the common topic is how fast time is flying and how quickly our homes are emptying. How are they 18 already? How is he already off to college? How is it that our children are getting married? You’re a grandma?

We used to chase toddlers and fill sippy cups, just waiting for a break. Now we’ve stopped chasing. We give them their space as we yearn for more time together. And for some of us, if the kids are old enough, we’re refilling their wine glass right alongside ours. I go to sleep before my kids do. They’re all taller than me except for one… but just give her time.

The baby of the family is now in braces and always concerned about what she’s wearing. The other day she filled a big box full of old toys. She knows how I am so she broke it to me gently. Her exact words were, “Don’t worry mom, I’m still a child. But I am packing away some of my childhood things.” Cruel, right?

I recently wondered if I’m no longer in the mommy blog category. Maybe I should start something brand new for women in midlife. Still, I’ll always be in the thick of motherhood. It just changes. That’s the whole point of the title of my blog, Aprons, Heels and Yoga Pants. Mothers switch gears as we need to. 

We trade in our yoga pants for heels when it’s time to switch over to a career. We don our aprons when we can, but they often collect dust as the kids get their own lives and prefer eating out with friends, or our careers leave us too drained to cook.

Women seem to take one of two paths as their children grow up. We either feel lost after investing so much time and sacrificing everything to raise them, unsure what our next step is…or for some women, they feel a new sense of freedom and run full speed toward those goals that have been out there just dangling in front of them, barely out of reach.

Personally, I think I do OK as the children leave, as long as I know they’re happy and doing what they want to do. However, I panic as the time approaches. Doesn’t it seem like we have a lifetime to teach them everything we want them to know? Then you wake up to their 16th birthday and suddenly there are only two years left to raise them, and then a year, then months, then suddenly it’s weeks.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to give crash courses in certain areas shortly before they are about to fly the nest. I panic over the silliest things. Do they know how to boil spaghetti? Do they know they should wash their sheets in hot water not cold? You know, super important stuff. I calm my worries by remembering I knew nothing about taking care of myself, keeping a home, or raising children when I left the safety of my mother. I did all of it pretty young and figured it out as I went along. They will as well.

Just a few minutes ago my 16-year-old, James, peeked in to let me know he and his friend are going to the mall. I just casually said, “OK, have a great time!” When he left the room, I paused to pray. I pray for their safety on the road, safety at the mall, and wisdom for them to make the right choices as they’re out and about. After that prayer I realized he’s never said that to me before. He’s never just walked in and said, I’m heading to the mall, mom. See you later. Ugh. A tug at the heartstrings and another leap into the valley of worry.

I’m convinced it’s the worry that makes us mothers so strong. Nothing prepares us for the intense love or the sometimes angst we feel in our hearts for our children. We’re simply thrown into it. It doesn’t matter what anyone tells us as motherhood approaches. We can’t comprehend the strength and quiet fear of a mother, until one day, we’re knee deep in it… sometimes fighting a war on a battlefield beside our child as they conquer hardship in their lives. Other times, we are conquering things for them quietly, behind the scenes. There are fears, worries, and prayers designated for each child, most of which they will never know.

There’s something else no one prepares us for. It’s much better then all of the fears and worry. Remember as you had children and people before you who already went through the teenage years would laugh and tease you, saying, just wait… just wait until the teenage years come! Your sweet baby will be a nightmare! I don’t know. I think I’m still capable of being a nightmare myself and I’m not a teenager.

I know I’m not the only one who’s actually found a lot of joy while raising teens and young adults. Maybe we should change what we say to young parents. Maybe instead of pointing out negative things we should prepare them for this:

* The closeness they’ll feel to their teenage child when they come to them with a problem or a broken heart.

* The way their mother heart will melt as their once chubby cheeked little boy says, “good morning” with a voice that says, I’m a man now. And how they’ll long for just one more morning to scoop him up in his little footie pajamas and kiss those chubby cheeks.

*That moment they’ll realize their child now has a grown-up sense of humor and can make them laugh until they’re in tears.

* Those stolen moments when they simply give you a hug for no reason and you know what it means. It’s their way of saying I love you and appreciate you, without having to say the words.

* The intense feeling of relief when you hear the garage door open at midnight and you’ve been begging God for the past hour to bring them home safely…and the tears that well up in your eyes as your child respectively texts, I’m home now mom, go to sleep.

* The rare occasion you get to watch them sleep, usually after a long day of school, sports, or a day at work and they pass out on the couch. You’ll ask everyone else in the house to stay quiet so you can watch them sleep in peace for just a little longer.

* The first time, rather than picking out an outfit for your daughter, you ask her to come in and help you choose an outfit for yourself. She’ll smile and a new and different respect and bond begins to form.

*The way your heart will burst with joy and pride as they accomplish their goals. And in turn the way your heart will break when theirs does.

* How they’ll stand in awe as a young adult child announces…I got into the College of my choice…I’m joining the military…I just got engaged…I’m going to do some traveling…you’re going to be a grandparent!

* When they call or text just to say hi or I love you, and you know you’ve done something right.

Don’t be afraid to raise teenagers and don’t expect motherhood to end when they’re grown and flown. It never ends and that’s a beautiful thing. How heartbroken we would be if it truly ended.

Motherhood is a calling, a gift, and the greatest privilege in the world. Hold tight to your babies. Kiss those chubby cheeks. Watch them sleep every chance you get. Then let them go, with confidence. You have loved them with everything you’ve got. Just that, is enough to help them make it in this world. They’ll be back for visits here and there, and you’ll cherish the time more than ever, as you dig together through the old boxes of toys they packed up long ago, when they were “still a child.”

Holding on to Charlotte and her fleeting childhood.