Just like all the really important events in our lives.
God made the best in life attainable to every creature, regardless of economic level or region of residence. Waking up to the sunrise, experiencing the exhilaration of adolescence, falling in love, wondering at the strength of an infant’s finger-clutch, delighting in grandchildren, reveling in the moonlight on an autumn night - these are not reserved for those of high birth or family privilege or even to those who might somehow seem to deserve them. No, these shared channels of human experience are for all.
Mothering is among those experiences. Obviously, not every woman is a mother; our sin-scarred DNA has taken care of that. But for those who have the physical capacity to bear children, there is no aptitude test one must take to qualify. Perhaps it would be good if there were. Yet, who among us could truly pass such an exam, could grasp the significance of the questions being asked, the responsibility being undertaken? We enter this state of motherhood unaware of its import. Perhaps God knew we wouldn’t do it otherwise.
And so all the stages of motherhood and family are common; millions of homes encounter similar seasons and events, whatever the culture, whatever the language. Human relationship and the emotions evoked are the same everywhere. Grown children moving farther away from the nucleus of the home is not then such a cataclysmic event. It happens somewhere every day. It is one of those common things, a piece of living that comes to every household.
Why then does it feel so very uncommon? Why does it seem more of a tragedy than an adventure? Why does it look like loss instead of gain? Why do I struggle with accepting what has been part of the storyline since the moment I felt the first twinge of new life deep within me?
I’ve been through this before, after all. Three years ago, my firstborn took the first flight from the nest. And I did survive it (though I have to admit I still don’t like it). Now, the second-born is eyeing the distance to her own new perch, getting ready to leap out, on her own and into God’s hands.
As I write this, one daughter is on the front porch in a rocker, the other sitting on the screened-in back porch, both with coffee cups and open Bibles, blonde hair spilling over their shoulders, their hearts lifted up to the One it has been my privilege to know as well. It makes me happy, this knowledge that they have such a Friend, a Guide. Yet, since mothers are allowed to have contradicting emotions, I’m still fighting back the tide of melancholy that rises up when I remember that soon I won’t have the privilege of seeing them first thing in the morning, hearing their silly banter and giving them a hug or kiss when I feel like it. And that’s when I realize anew that I am displaying another common trait – selfishness. Maybe it’s not as ugly when cloaked in motherhood, but it’s still as damaging. And there is a fine line, perhaps, between mother’s “heart” and smothering. After all, how do you ever really distance yourself from a being who began in your body and who never leaves your heart? Yet, to clutch your child so closely that she can never experience her own life is absolutely selfish. I was not given my children for me, but for Him. And they are separate entities, however deeply they are imprinted on my soul. They were meant to soar, without a mom-tether. Now, the thing that binds us will be our hearts, our mother-child tie that no distance or life experience can sever unless we let it.
It is an adventure for both of us.
If we let it be.
If I let it be.
The loss is there, but it is a loss that gives way to a greater horizon. As the journey from the womb to the world outside gives greater freedom to know a fresh, squalling infant, so the trek from the home to the dorm or apartment or wherever allows greater liberty to fully know an adult child, to learn what nuances of character are hidden, waiting to be released and to begin to appreciate from a new perspective the overwhelming beauty of this creation that God allows moms help tocreate.
Yes, it’s common, this vortex of emotion that swirls in and around me now. I don’t know if I will ever really enjoy the process of letting go, but I hope I can see the exhilaration of discovery that awaits both of us or rather all of us, as more of my children enter this hallway of transition. And like Mary of old, I will treasure all these things in my heart, and maybe even find myself growing eager for the next installment of our family story. Because, like yours, there is nothing at all common about that.