My oldest is a Sophomore who over the last few months has reached many milestones. She has gotten her driver's licences, taken responsibility for herself on getting up and out the door in the mornings, and for the most part is setting her own schedule and letting me know where she will be and what she will be doing. I still have override authority on all of it, but I am no longer needed to shuttle her, be available, or even make food for her. While I am excited and overjoyed for HER and HER JOURNEY into this season, each step and milestone is a painful reminder that my constant care, input, and presence in her life is no longer needed and in large part not wanted.
My youngest is in 8th grade and will be a Freshman next year. She has had her own list of milestones recently. She has learned to serve others with compassion and has allowed herself to embrace the leader/ servant that God created her to be. She has always been responsible, but I have seen her, at the age of 14, seek after and embrace positions many adults struggle to manage. She auditioned for the High School Band and will be marching with them in the fall. Last night was her last Jr. High School dance and she had a blast sharing the night with friends she will be parting ways from in a month as they head to different high schools. Even though she has never set foot in a high school classroom, she will start college courses in June. I am happy for her and the future she is working towards, but her choice to use her Summer to get college credits means that the family time I anticipated (and honestly long for) will not be available to us. Here again, with this milestone, I am being pushed into to background.
Unlike diapers, teething, pacifiers, and toddler beds, I am not quite ready for these milestones and what they mean for me as a mom. My daughters are moving through these "becoming adult" seasons so fast I struggle to find balance. Its as if I wake up one day and am needed for everything, then by lunch they have this new skill mastered and I'm expected to be an observer on the sidelines of their life.
How do I continue to celebrate the amazing women they are becoming and allow that to be BIGGER than the sorrow I am experiencing in this season as they need me (and want me) less and less?
The bible clearly tells us to
"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.", (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)In a way, this season of milestones is similar to when I encouraged them to take their first steps.
In that season my job was to be in front of them, holding my arms out and lovingly encouraging them to be brave, believe in themselves and their ability, and to take that first step...all the while, silently praying that they wouldn't get hurt.
In this season though, I'm cheering them on from behind, telling them that they have what it takes to walk this path. My arms are still outstretched, partly to gently push them, but also so that they know my arms are still open and I'm still here ready to comfort, support, and encourage them when they look back uncertain about their next step. I'm still praying that they don't get hurt.
A major difference in this season though is that when they took their first steps, they were walking toward me...today they are walking away. Because this season is personally painful, I have to be careful not to allow the milestones my daughters are embracing become MILLSTONES for me.
A millstone is a stone that rolls around finely grinding wheat, corn or other substances into a flour like powder. If I were to allow my daughters' milestones to wear me down and make me feel useless as I am being pushed further into the background of their lives, their milestones could easily become millstones that leave me broken and crushed. I think an appropriate scripture is:
"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.", (Galatians 6:9, NLT)
I know that in this season of changes I still have a very important role in their lives. I show up even when they don't greet me with the same enthusiasm they did when they were three. I listen and attempt to comfort them as they pour out their fears and broken hearts even though a kiss no longer makes things all better. I give counsel even though they have to make their own choices and live with those consequences...good or bad.
Mostly I stay behind them with arms wide open, ready to embrace them should they decide to run back to the safety of mom. I will remain in the shadows ready to step in and be what they want/need me to be, but the days of me being the center of their universe are mostly over.
As I write this, I realize that the posture of motherhood is "arms wide open". The enemy would want to use pain of these milestones to cause me to have a "motherhood identity crisis". If my daughters' milestone were to become my millstones, then I would be tempted to drop my arms to a position of protecting my heart and shutting myself off from my children. I refuse to allow that to happen.
Jesus experienced tremendous pain and rejection as he held His arms open wide and died of the cross so I would have the safety of Him and His love to run to. I know these milestones will not kill me. I hope and pray that I do well as I finish this season of mothering. I am trusting that at the end of this, I will have allowed God to use motherhood to shape me in to who He has planned for me to be.
While I am not ready to consider myself qualified to be an "older woman" I am older than the moms who travel this path behind me. I hope to reflect this scripture in all of my actions.
Maybe one day, I will be able to be the woman that is talked about in this verse.
So sweet moms, keep your heart and arms open toward your children no matter what milestones they are reaching. It can be thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time. Lets work to not allow the milestones of our children become millstones that crush us.