"You are my heart....When you succeed, I succeed....when you fail, I fail....when you step, I step with you. You are my heart...You have to know that...."
It dawned on me the other day that you are getting dangerously close to the age I was when I gave birth to you. I’m not going to lie, that knowledge terrifies me a bit. Not simply because I don’t want you to become a teenage parent (which I don’t- at all), but because it means that you’ve reached a point in your life where the choices you make can and will impact you for years to come, if not forever. How well you do in school, the types of people you associate with, and how you divvy up the pie chart that is your life between family, friends, girls, school, sports, etc., matters NOW. (For the record, it should go like this: school, family, sports, friends, girls. I realize, however, that you probably want to do things in the exact opposite order.)
As much as I would love to keep you a baby forever, I can no longer deny the fact that you are becoming a young man, right before my eyes. Which means that I have to make some changes, too. I have to learn how to be the mother of a teenager, as opposed to a teenage mother. I'm going to be honest, I am struggling. Bad. I have to learn that I can’t fight your battles for you or hold your hand during every step of your journey into manhood. I have to allow you to make mistakes and learn things the hard way. And I have to learn how to become your friend. I have to learn how to juggle the two.
Make no mistake, I will always be your mother before your friend. I will still discipline you when it’s warranted and try to impart my “mom wisdom” on you when I can, no matter how stupid you think it is. (Or how stupid you think I am.) But I also have to start allowing you to make your own choices, to be who you are. I need to stand back and watch as the things I’ve taught you about the world, about life, and about how to treat others, take hold on their own, without my reminders and lectures and constant nagging. I need to learn how to enjoy the young man that you’ve become, and take pride in the part I’ve played in that.
In just five short years, you’ll be a legal adult. You’ll be the same age I was when I gave birth to a beautiful brown-eyed baby boy. The age I was when I met the love of my life. (Yes, I’m talking about you.) While teenage parenthood is not ideal (and again, not something I want you to experience- EVER), I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I could. Just as I’ve watched you grow over the past thirteen years, you’ve done the same with me. You’ve watched me make mistakes, have my heart broken, and fall down (literally and figuratively) more times than I can count. You’ve seen and heard and been through things that I never wanted you to have to experience. But the thing I hope you’ll take from it all, more than anything else, is that I always got back up. I admitted when I was wrong, apologized when I should (usually), and didn’t let anything stop me.
I may not have been the one to teach you to play baseball, or wrestle, or even ride a bike, but hopefully I did teach you what it means to be a fighter. To always follow your heart and your dreams, and to never give up, no matter how many setbacks you face. I’m far from perfect. You know that because you see my flaws firsthand. And I’m sure that sometimes it must seem like I’m a hypocrite for disciplining you when I see you following in some of my more unfavorable footsteps. If it seems like I expect more from you than I myself gave at your age, it’s because I do.
I tell you all the time that we’re a lot alike, and it’s true. Sometimes I feel that we’re too much alike. (Which is probably why we argue as often as we do.) But here’s where we differ: you’re better than me. I know, because you are the best part of me. And because you’ve seen the worst part of me. I never tried to put myself on a pedestal for you, and maybe that’s in part because I was afraid of falling. But I don’t regret it. Growing up alongside you was a lot more fun anyway. You see baby boy, you are my heart. You are the one that gave me the strength I needed it. You are the one that I got out of the bed for each and every day. Your face is the one I saw when I was in the darkest part of my life and suicide crossed my mind. You are my heart.
I’m writing you this letter in a moment of clarity, but I’m sure that tomorrow, or next week, or the week after that, I’ll try to pick out your school clothes, or stick my nose in “your business,” or let my hurt feelings show when you choose to spend your evening talking on the phone to your friends instead of watching movies with me. It will happen. I promise. But when it does, please try to have a little patience with me. Because as hard as it was becoming a teen mom, I’m finding it a lot harder learning how to be the mom of a teenager.
“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked. 'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat. 'I don't know,' Alice answered. 'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”
With so many doubts swirling in my head — sometimes loud and shouting, sometimes sneaky and whispering, sometimes more of an image of a word following by a question mark than actual thoughts — I am reduced to acknowledging: I JUST DON’T KNOW.
I don’t know.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how it all fits. How everything is supposed to fit. How everything works. How to have a cleaner house....be more creative...be a better mom...a better wife...a better friend. To be quite honest with you, most times I feel like I am a kid playing house....and sometimes, just like a child, I flip a coin or play eeny meeny miny moe....and still, I am unsure of what I am doing. I’m coming to see there are just some things I don’t know in this life.
Everyday as a mom, I am faced with things I don't know. I don't know if what I am doing is right...if what is right in this moment will be right 1 year down the road. I want to believe that I am raising my children with morals...with compassion....with the ability to choose right from wrong....to listen very closely to the heart....but also to be smart. Every choice I make....every situation I am faced with allows me to be an example to these 2 little beings....and I pray....Lord, I pray....that I am being the best example I can be.
I don't know what tomorrow holds....or next week...next year.
I simply just....don't know.
And I think I’m coming to see that that’s okay....Or maybe not so much okay with that, as coming to an understanding of it and thinking that maybe it’s a better place to be. Maybe being in a state of questioning allows me to sit in a position of learning and listening.
There are some things I do know — at least for now:
I love compassion. And mercy. And empathy for the suffering of others. I know kindness is a good thing. Respect for the dignity of others is so rare, but so much more valuable for its rarity. I know a listening ear gains much more ground than a shouting mouth. Humility is so attractive. I know we could all use a hand up sometimes, and while it’s far more blessed to be the one extending that hand than to be the one needing it, we all have to take our turn on the receiving end.
I know life is precious, beauty is there for those who seek it, and sometimes life and its hidden beauty are enough to see us through one more day.
I know I need my people more than I realize. I know they need me, maybe more than I realize. I have a sneaking suspicion that the things we think we hold dear are probably not the things we would first rescue if our house was on fire. I also know I sometimes need the reminder that we all need rescued.
I know love is so critically important. I know we are all lonely and looking for someone who sees us as we really are. I know that being seen for who I really am scares the pants off me, that it’s both what I want and what I’m terrified of...and that I am thankful for the very few people that do....and love me regardless.
I know each of us is inherently gifted, that we all have something to offer, and the world is a much poorer place without our contribution. The skills we have are given in order to bless others, and they also represent some of the most difficult areas to share, these places of our vulnerability.
I know labels hurt and pride isolates and words can injure. I know my position of “being right” removes me from having any real impact. I know that when I smugly sit in a seat of judgment I alienate those who seem to need help the most, when in reality it is I, myself, who needs the most help.
I know second chances, and grace, change everything. I know an apology sinks in deeper than an excuse; that a soft word of encouragement echoes more loudly than a yell of correction; that the two extra seconds required to smile at a stranger just may make all the difference in their day.
I know there are those who are hungry and cold and alone and lonely and desperate and sick and oppressed and imprisoned, and I don’t know why I am not. (I guess that one belongs in the “I don’t know” column). I know I can live with strength and courage and integrity and gratitude, and I’m afraid all that won’t change the lives of those who are hungry and cold and lonely and desperate and sick and oppressed and imprisoned. Or maybe it will…
Because it will change my life. And that might change the lives of those in direct contact with me. And it might even, in a ripple effect, slowly, one wave at a time, reach them (the hungry and cold and lonely…) eventually. In living with passion, intentionality, and purpose; in resolving to be compassionate; to be the hand who reaches to help; to be the one who offers food and shelter and comfort; to have a word of encouragement on my lips and an eye out for the good in others; in admitting that “I don’t know”… maybe that can change some things about this place so those who are hungry and cold and alone and in all those sad conditions will be a little fewer in number than they were before. Maybe if each one of us knew enough to know that, our children and the generations coming on behind us will be able to make even more of a difference.
I don’t know.
But I do hope. And I know hope can make a world of difference.
I am a artistic soul that loves music, art, and anything in between. Readling a good book is the best, and I always get sad when it ends... I love shoes, watermelon jolly ranchers, and the beach..I tend to speak before I think..but there is always a truth to what I say! I have a 9 year old son that brings out everything that is best and worst in me..Sometimes when I look at him its like I'm looking in a mirror..Being his mother is my greatest accomplishment... I have been married to my best friend for 6 years..He truly amazes me everyday..I am not perfect and I love learning about myself day to day..some good and some bad...but all in all..I kinda like me.. :)