Mothering: The In Be-Tween Years

We stood on her deck, as the sun slipped low in the sky.  It was the end of summer and the air was pregnant with memories of lazy days and long slow heat-infused moments. The fish-pond bubbled and gurgled beneath us as we watched slick orange and white bodies vying for food.

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Our hands cupped our wine glasses as her kids jockeyed for position around us and between us.  Picaso-inspired colouring pages were given as gifts to be cherished and kept for the refrigerator art gallery. Lego creations from newly acquired sets were strewn all helter-skelter across the dining room table.

As we sipped our ruby liquid, we watched the antics of kids and fish and neighbourhood dogs charge through the open doors of her house.  She sighed beside me and I felt my whole being sigh along side her.

I wasn’t prepared for the question that came as we watched the sky turn techni-colour.

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You see one of her own, was sitting on the precipice of 10.  The double-digit epicness of TEN was knocking on her door.

Life does a slow shift as your kids get older.  You end up in this crazy in-between of looking forward to their new-found independence (aka your freedom) yet missing all of their yesterdays.  The days of no more diapers, no more bum wiping, no more midnight feedings.

As much as you long for the fresh and the new, you’re not really prepared for how you’re supposed to live in this uncharted territory.

She looked at me and asked, “you’ve been here before, do you have any advice for this mom who’s embarking on tweenagerdom?”

I still think about my response some 3 months later and how truly inadequate it was.  If I could take the moment back I would have responded with more than a… wait for it…

“Hold your ground…”

Are you kidding me???  That’s it that’s all I could say.  This mama who has two grown-up kids embarking on dreams and all I could come up with was “hold your ground?”

Oh my heavens, pray tell? What does that even mean?

So I’m taking a mulligan right here in this space.  I’m having a do-over.  So for all you mamas hanging on to your child’s single digit years – these are for you.

They still need you. It may not look like it.  They may tell you that their fourth grade teacher, or their friend who is 6 months more wise in the ways of the world, knows more than you, but they still need you.

They need your consistency and the constancy of your love.  Now more than ever.

As they find their own way in this world that spins on the axis of crazy they are going experience disappointment and discontent.

Your arms.  The way your hand grazes the top of their heads. The way you reach out and touch their shoulder.

It will be what grounds them – what makes them feel the tangible love of Jesus.

They are God’s image bearers. So that tantrum in the back of the car? The door slamming in your face or the way their feet shake the very foundation of your home when they stomp a raging path?

I know it doesn’t seem very God-like but they’re figuring out how they fit.  No matter what they may act like or the words that they choose they are still God’s poems.

Our children were not born to be a direct reflection of us, they were born to bear the image of God.

It’s hard sometimes to find the balance between letting them grow and discover and knowing when to model more appropriate behaviour.

But I think of Christ and how he loved us.  How his kindness led us to repentance.  Should we then not model the same for these tiny image-bearers that often test the limits of coping and patience?

They will choose the wrong thing. Your kids will mess up.  Particularly when they’re trying to figure out who they are.  They are going to make poor choices and sometimes those choices are going to hurt them and…  hurt you.

Consequences will need to be discussed – it’s part of life – even for us older people who still find their way to bad choices.

But…

Consequences can wait.  Can’t they?  Making a poor choice creates a fertile ground for shame.  What if instead of the consequence coming first – the love came first.  What if shame was defeated by love so life can be lived to its fullest.

What if instead of the grounding or the screen-ban being the first words out of our mouth we opened our hearts and our arms wide and whispered “I love you – no matter what I will always love you.”

Give them space.  I think as mothers we want nothing more than to hold them close to our hearts for as long as we possibly can.  We want to always know that when we reach out they’ll be a mere arms-length away.

But here’s what I’ve learned from watching two children take flight… watching their dreams sore.  Creating space for them to become the person and live the purpose God intended for them is an unspeakable joy.

As they get older they’ll need mama’s arms less and less but they will never for one moment forget that they can always – ALWAYS – find their way back to the circle of your embrace.

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To my beautiful, brave and courageous mama friends… give yourself grace. 

May you know glory in watching your children grow in stature.  May you witness Christ when you look into the eyes of each of your children. May you know that when you blow it or feel inadequate that the power of the cross covers all.

Grace has this way of taking back to the Cross what’s been done — but what takes back the things I never did…?  Grace — it is strong enough to carry even the things never done, the things heaviest of all.” – Ann Voskamp.

 


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