Lunch after church today consisted of myself, my hubby and my first born, jokester son. I love being with my boys whenever possible and mysteriously they will always come along for a free meal. Upon finishing our lunch he was ready to get home. He leaned across the table and kissed me on the cheek, then headed out. My nest is two thirds the way empty now and some days its very nice, but at other times, I miss my little boys. My grandmother Millsey once told me that there was no higher calling than to be a mother. I have taken that calling very serious, probably to the extreme if you asked my boys. Through the years they have told me that I am just like the mom, Lois, in the popular TV show “Malcolm in the middle.” Although I have never seen the show, I’m pretty sure it’s not a compliment from the observation of their giggles.
Raising boys has been pretty hard in my view as they haven’t made anything easy for me. It seems they enjoy aggravating me to whatever degree they can. My oldest enjoys calling me “mother,” and started doing so at the tender age of 8. My mistake was the confession that “mother” made me think of an old woman….. so he calls me that just to mess with me. One time he called me woman. When I scolded him, his reply was…..”Jesus called his mother, woman.” Needless to say I informed him that he wasn’t the son of God and I certainly was not mother Mary and he was to never call me that again.
My middle son seemed to inherit the sarcastic side of my husband. His dry, wry one-liners with a bit of smugness, still rile me a bit. I have to work hard not to let them get under my skin. He is the worship band director at a large Christian school teaching middle and high school students how to prepare worship music for their chapels and events. Recently I told him that his beard was too long and bushy for the professional look and he informed me that the bible teacher’s beard was longer than his.
When I go on to explain that I have worked in a professional setting requiring me to hire employees and if a potential job applicant came in looking like “Grizzly Adams,” they usually did not get too far in the hiring process. He then proceeded to quote the scripture from 1 Samuel 16:7 about “the Lord looks not on the outward appearance…… like man does……but HE looks at the heart.” Sometimes he knows his bible a little too good and quotes it well.
My youngest son was the first to jump out of the nest. I am afraid he is my match when it comes to being stubborn. Needless to say he has always been one to follow his heart…..just like me. He started working at 15 and was terribly independent…..he has been since he was a toddler. He got married young, landed a great job…… and with his sweet, younger bride they live life their way…..which brings me comfort in a way that frees me of worry to a certain degree.
Worry…gosh…..worry is what a parent does isn’t it? Although my boys are all in their early to mid twenties….there are still certain elements of their life that I worry about. They are far from perfect kids but they have been pretty good boys…..even amidst all their aggravating tendencies……quirks…….. questionable decisions…..mistakes……and victories.
Every time they leave my presence they kiss me goodbye and I immediately ask God to protect them. In the past if sirens screamed past my house I would give everyone a call to make sure they were okay. They give me a hard time about that. When they would leave on road trips I would always instruct their friends that happened to be driving that they were carrying “precious cargo.” This would always result in red faces with steely glares from my sons….and giggles from their friends. If looks could kill…..well….I would have been deeply wounded let’s say. I would tell them to let me know when they had arrived…..usually that fell upon deaf ears and upon return there would declarations of no cell service available. Yeah….right. At times I honestly thought I would have a nervous break down when all three would be on the road at the same time.
When they would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom…… it’s like I had a built in radar that automatically would wake me…… I often found myself yelling out into the dark…..”Wash your hands!” Hygiene….boy that’s been a prickly subject through the years. Boys just don’t get the need of using soap on one’s hands before eating. Just last weekend we all gathered to celebrate my hubby’s birthday and we played a game that required using money. Quarters, nickels and dimes would either go into the pot or passed off to a neighbor. Upon completion of the game….in full helicopter mom mode I cautioned…..”Make sure you all wash your hands cause money is one of the dirtiest things you can have in your hands.” There were snickers and the standard roll of eyes….along with a fresh comeback from my first born….” I’m pretty sure holding a turd would be dirtier than holding money, mother.”
It was hard when I let them go live on campus at Carson Newman College. At one time they were all three enrolled there and a couple of semesters they roomed together. I would call every night about 11:30 to make sure they were all in for the night. The conversation always went something like this; “Hey son, what’s going on?” ( I envisioned them hard at work, studying). My first born; “Ah…you know mom…curfew’s over so the hooker’s just left and we’re out of weed.” I would hear the giggles in the background. I always told them what my daddy used to tell me…..”Nothing good ever happens after midnight…..so you boys need to be in before then.” I recently found out they made numerous miscellaneous runs to Walmart at 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning. They have always been intent upon torturing me.
Well let me just say…..I’m tired! I have raised my white flag! I give up! I am at the point in life where I might as well shut up, right? I reckon. It’s so hard to let go……to let go and let them make their own decisions even when experience has taught me they may be making a mistake. It’s so hard to see them walking out the door into a big, mean world that isn’t always fair or righteous. It’s so hard to go through my day knowing that they really don’t physically need me much anymore. They don’t ask for money and if we offer they are very resistant although sometimes mom or dad just wants to be good to them.
I miss our nighttime family prayers and devotions when they all piled on our bed with smelly feet and hairy legs. I miss our holidays when we would all wake up under the same roof. I miss being a spectator on the front roll of their lives like I was throughout their school careers. I miss everything about the memories of their childhood experience. It’s very bittersweet to “look up” at my man sons with beards, car keys, homes, obligations and busy lives.
Letting go has been very hard for this “hands-on mom” that at times ventured over into excessive parenting. I say that with a laugh because I know I’ve made mistakes. I can relate to the mom in the “Old Spice” TV commercial. I know I didn’t do everything right out of either ignorance or stubbornness…….but one thing I know for sure…..I have loved them with all my being……and perhaps that is why I have won the title of “helicopter mom extraordinaire” from my gregarious and humorous three.
So I finally came to a point that I knew the Lord was telling me…..”let go Mel…..for your own peace of mind….let go.” It came about in the scripture Psalms 50:10-11.
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”
The earth belongs to God….he created it. The animals belong to God…. the birds of the air…..absolutely everything….belongs to God. Just like the scripture says……HE knows the cattle…every beast…all the fowls…He knows my boys. HE has their best interests in mind….HE knows their hearts…..HE knows exactly what HE wants for these magnificent three……and one more thing…HE loves them infinitely more than I could ever love them. That’s pretty hard to fathom…..cause I am crazy, snake-nuts (as my friend, Alice would say) about these boys.
Who better to turn my kids over to….than my heavenly father who created them, to begin with?
He can bless and do far more for them than I could ever do. HE can instruct, teach and nurture exceedingly better that I could imagine. HE can protect them in his perfect wisdom much greater than I could ever in my feeble earthly power. HE just gave them to me for a while….to raise them up for the kingdom…..for HIS purposes…..for HIS glory.
I feel that we are still parenting in a sense. We still pray with them and offer spiritual guidance. If they have a burden or problem….they have been taught to pray and they are always eager and willing to pray with us. I am trying really hard….since the turd remark….to throw caution to the wind and let them eat with dirty hands. I am attempting to bite my tongue on all the motherly nuances and statements that are just second nature to me. Old habits are hard to break….but I am resolved that I will hold my tongue when “no shave November” rolls around this year.
So if I can give you any parental advice it would be this…..
Just pray….. pray….. pray. We can do far more for our children on our knees than anything.
I don’t just pray for them….but I pray for myself as well…..that God will give me insight….peace….and wisdom to be all that I need to be for them at this stage of their lives……because whether they know it or not…..they still need me and the old dad, a little.
Just for fun…..enjoy the Old Spice “Mom” song.