Mother’s Day, when all my chicks have lost their downy fluff and grown flight feathers, has me feeling wistful and reflective. Raising a troupe of milky breathed babes and beginning readers was the sweetest season. I was also exhausted and smelled like puke a lot of the time. It was hard, but so, SO much fun.
Now that everyone is flying, I feel like I know a few things about having parts of my heart living outside my body that I want to share.
When they were little, I read ALL the books and tried to “mother right”. I was intentional and planned a life that Charlotte Mason would have given her stamp of approval. Then I realized that I was outnumbered and that my plans had to be more outline and less to-do list. When they turned to teens, they had their own to-do lists! Who knew the kids wouldn’t just want to do everything my way?
Here’s what I know for sure. Individual children have individual paths to successful adulting. Some want and need lots of guidance and structure in the greenhouse of childhood and others need to (and must) make their own mistakes to learn. Under my surface desire to successfully mother by to-do list, there was something more happening. What I was really doing was trying to protect my own heart. The one, the ones… outside my body.
I’ve learned that to love is to risk heartbreak. When my kids hurt, I hurt. It’s when I hurt the most.
In the early years of their adolescence, I tried to keep from hurting by having a lot of structure (rules). As my babies turned to teens, I constricted instead of releasing my grip a finger at a time. They resisted and it wasn’t pretty. They were trying to practice independence while still in the safety of my nest and I was trying to keep them under my wing. It looked like prudent parenting from the outside, but it was actually self-protection. I didn’t want their mistakes to break my heart.
With time and experience, I found that everyone was so much happier when I worked on teaching values instead of writing family rule lists. I started risking the heartbreak buy loosening my grip and being a resource for solving problems and processing complicated feelings. I taught my teens that it was ok to make mistakes and that I would listen and help them through anything. ANYTHING.
I learned that my capacity to hurt was much larger than I knew.
I found out that when I was, and am this most trusted soft place to fall, I get to know my children deeply instead of the version of them they think I will accept. That was always my goal. To know their deepest parts. This knowing is even better than baby babbles and milky breath. And if you know how I feel about babies, you know this is really saying something.
On Mother’s Day, I send unquantifiable gratitude to my own mother and the grandmas and in-law mothers in love, and aunties that let me and the women of my generation fly around with their beautiful hearts. And to the next generation, I say ~ the joy is worth the risk. I see you and know that it’s both beautiful and brutal. But we can do hard things. Happy Mother’s Day Lovelies!