This parenting teens who’ve just flown the coop, or are about to fly the coop, or wishing they could fly the coop is the most challenging season of parenting, I’ve decided. This evening after such a long weary day, I should go to bed. But instead my heart pines for precious ones that I want to hug, to encourage, to love. Most of them are just a room or two away, and yet in this moment the distance feels too great to span.
It was so easy when they were tiny. So easy to just scoop a sleeping child up after a long day and bring them into the rocking chair for a late-night snuggle. Their soft selves would cradle into me not even wondering, not even skipping a breath. They’d just settle in, where I could breathe into their hair and rock and rock, soothing both our souls, with me luxuriating in the deep down certainty that even thru the heavy weight of sleep they could feel my love. That their dreams were sweet because they were in my arms.
These days ‘our’ place tends to be the minivan. Or the kitchen. I talk and advise, hug when they’ll let me, and cook and feed and shop and drive. And pray. And drive. And drive some more. (Oh, they constantly want to go places.)
But the cozying in. The loving-mom-back. Less of that comes these days. And tonight my momma-heart is missing the adoring baby-eyes, the feel of a little one running full-tilt into my body because he knows I’ll catch him, the slightly older one drawing and handing me love notes at odd moments in the day. No, nothing was perfect back then either. And I know those babies still lurk somewhere inside the bigger people who inhabit my world these days. I recognize a look in the eyes now and then.
But on tough days my throat aches hard for that time when my big gangly teens had zero doubt I was on their side. And wanted me there. *I* know I’m still there, cheering them on, dreaming good dreams and praying with fervor. But teens don’t see it so clear some days.
A few weeks back my full-grown son came by for a visit. He sat by me on the couch and after we’d talked awhile he laid his head on my shoulder and gave a big sigh and we just sat, being together. At that moment I wanted to never move again, it felt so sweet. That he wanted to be there. That he found me a comfort. That he gained peace from my presence. Oh, the happy ache.
It’s easier for us, these days with him all grown. He’s gained maturity, gotten past the fierce lonely ache of adolescence. He’s not flailing to find his balance, like these younger ones seem to be. Something about that flailing, it seems, compels them to push me hard away. As if they fear my very presence will inhibit their launch into the world.
I once heard that parenting a teen has something in common with a pendulum, that the teen years often find kids at the far end of that pendulum swing, nearly out of reach of the parent who is struggling hard to be the steady base. But that’s the time not to lose heart, because the pendulum is going to swing back. Give it time.
The other day after taking my gaggle of teens on a less-than-stellar shopping trip– the angst! the frustration! the see-through clothing! — I ran into the grocery store for fried chicken at the deli counter. When the deli lady asked how my day was going, I laughingly said something about the challenge of clothing shopping with teens. She was a few years older than I am and nodded knowingly, listened kindly. I had the feeling she saw right through my jokes to the honest pain. We continued to talk a minute or two. As she handed me my box of chicken she smiled kindly and said, “Don’t worry, momma, they’ll come back to you.”
And even as I thanked her, I felt the tears welling up and all of a sudden I remembered that pendulum. I’m in the midst of the pushing-away stage with multiple ones of mine. But I’m also blessedly experiencing the coming-back stage with others. The son I ate lunch with yesterday. The one with whom I had late-night chats several weeks ago. The grown girls who bring our grandbabies for visits on the weekends.
And even with the kids in the midst of this pushing away stage, there are plenty of good times. Shopping trips that end with actual clothing agreement. Shared jokes and smiles. Words of thanks for my endless chauffeuring. Lively discussions about movies. Much good. And there’s also the 11 year old who plops herself on my lap for a snuggle this evening. And the 9 year old who just yesterday wrote me a love note.
God is good to give me such balance in my life. Such reason for hope each and every day. And so I will keep on hoping and keep loving and keep on praying God’s very best for each of their lives. Because I’m the momma and that’s what mommas do. And I trust that God has good plans for each of their lives.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel. ~from Isaiah 44.