Friday, June 7, 2013

Motherhood: The Process of Letting Go

The twins donned their aqua blue shark and Pepto Bismol pink kitty helmets to pedal down the gravel drive towards the halfway point by our designated "turnaround tree."  As usual, I was bent towards the ground to pull more knee-high weeds that I was certain I had eliminated only a few days before.

Summer conditions in South Louisiana resemble a rain forest, only the steam and direct heat make the weeds grow and real plants die.  Both send up new shoots and set tender leaves with each downpour of blessed rain.  Then, while the weeds continue to thrive, the plants' new growth scalds in the late afternoon sun, the lower ninety degree heat curling the edges of baby leaves and burning them to a brown crisp typical of autumn.

In other words, weeding is such a big part of summer that the children quickly grow bored and abandon me.  It's typical.  Yet, the next time I stood up to give my back a rest, I realized all was too quiet.  Sure enough, a half mile across the hay field, I noticed a flash of pink and blue by the barns and sprawling vegetable garden.

Without permission, the twins had decided to extend their path of freedom all the way to Oma and Opa's end of the farm. With no big brother Wyatt around to explain how much trouble they would get into for breaking this farm rule, they had decided to test their limits.

Minutes later, penitent, bawling, little ones were peddling back down the drive towards a stint in their room as this mama's blue Schwinn crept slowly behind to make certain they made it there.

"Oh, they just wanted to come see us!" my mother in law cooed.  "With those bikes, it's just so hard to not be independent!  You know, when we were younger, we spent all summer on our bikes.  And we never told our mama when we drove down to Maw Maw Kemp's house."

My mother has regaled me with similar stories of her childhood, the kind that make my jaw drop.  The worst is when she and her friends would just decide at random that they would skip the bus ride home from school.  Instead, they would walk the three and a half miles home down the gravel road.

Three and a half miles.  Even at a good clip (which they probably weren't, if teenagers then were even remotely similar to modern teens), that choice would put them an extra hour later getting home....all without even a call to give their mother a head's up about what they were doing.

This lifestyle is so foreign to me.  A child of the 70s and 80s, I would have had my hide tanned if I had gone next door to my grandmother's house without permission, and there wasn't a football field's distance between her house and mine!

My mother's mom.  My mother-in-law's mom.  These mothers started letting go of their children at ages when our present society would say, "Are you crazy!?"  Today, they could be accused of child neglect.  But then?  It was just an accepted part of being a parent.

In our present-day culture, we do the opposite.  Sure, times are different, and we parents must be vigilant to protect our children.  Still, sometimes, we hold so tightly that we smother.  Sometimes, we become so wrapped up in protecting and policing that we don't allow our children the freedom and independence to become responsible young adults and make their own choices, draw their own conclusions.

I see this prominently with conservative Christians but also (and more so) with our young men, too many of whom are trapped in an eternal childhood of bachelorhood, unburdened by real responsibility.  As a college teacher of the traditional twenty-something set and as the Christian mother of two very young men, this concerns me.

I want to be the mother who protects but  not the one who sets herself up to be/do everything he needs.  I am not God, nor do I want to be for my children.  It's a tough balance between wanting to teach them everything I know while still protecting them to the utmost, yet also wanting my boys to learn to be independent, Godly men who can be the head of their own household.

I must learn when to let go, when to allow the Holy Spirit (and not mom) to convict their souls.

This week, I sent my oldest son to live with his grandmother--five days for this six year old who has never been away from me for more than a night.

It was a long week.

I missed Wyatt's bossy chatter, his hugs, and our reading cuddles each evening.  But I also loved how he quickly adapted to living in a different household.

By the second day, he had learned to dial my number and would call twice a day--once to tell me how Vacation Bible School went and another to wish me good night, something he's seen me do for years with my own mother.  When I "visited" on Thursday, he kissed me goodbye and even walked me to my car.

This afternoon, I've been happy to have him back home with me.  For that, I'm thankful.  And then the togetherness is broken, that desire for independence always coming back too soon.

"Can we bike down to Oma and Opa's for movie night?"

Smiling, I point to the door, and six running legs head for their helmets.

Image: Bossy big brother warning younger twins away from the crawfish pot.  (Image courtesy of my sister in law, since this mother wasn't there to be OCD about pinching claws and scalding hot water).

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