Letting Go

“How old is your son?” I was caught off guard by her sharp tone.

“Uh, which one?” I quipped back, knowing who she meant.

“The one getting married soon.” Her disapproving tone was now obvious.

“Oh, he’s 25,” I said with a smile.

“25! That’s too young to be married!” she asserted with an air of expertise.

“Well, I was 21 when I got married,” I said, half jesting to counter her judgment.

“Still! 25 is too young to be married,” she insisted.

The proclamation of her opinion sounded so much like truth,  it caused me to doubt whether my son was indeed too young to be married. I quickly began a review of his character and adult qualifications, but then I stopped myself.

It has been almost five years since he has lived with me, and longer still since I’ve paid any of his bills. Seven years ago he was granted the right to vote, and within the past four years he became old enough to purchase and consume alcohol.

Too young to be married? Really. I was aggravated that I had allowed her opinion to bring doubt to my mind about his decision. There may be a multitude of reasons why he is NOT too young to be married, but the most important reason is – at 25 he has decided to get married.

It is a common issue for parents, mostly mothers, I think. Seems that no one has told us when to stop being in control and let our children take control … of their lives. I mean, really doesn’t it feel that it was just yesterday that they were learning to talk? But from the moment they’re conceived, their movement is away from us. Nine months incubating, growing, and we become all too quick with the desire for them to get out, to be born. Then our proud excitement as they learn to roll and crawl and walk. Have you ever thought that these are all movements away from us? Then they’re off to school, and preferring their friends, away, away, and away. The physical movement emphasizes the separation in the relationship, a relationship that begins with full dependence, but ends with full independence.

Is my college graduate, gainfully employed 25-year old son too young to get married? Yes, no … I don’t know. How can anyone be certain? But as I reflect, I am certain about one thing –  he will figure it out, and he doesn’t need my doubts to color his confidence. Last time I looked he was living his life, and I am living mine. All my adult children should have the privilege of living their own lives, whatever that looks like, and no matter what my opinion is. After all, did I have children to possess them forever, or to love them and let them go?

~ ily momma

Teach Your Children to Do Their Laundry; It’s Good for Them

A few weeks ago my last high school student graduated. Amid the whirlwind of activities I heard a similar comment from several parents. “She doesn’t even do her own laundry. I don’t know how she’ll function away at college.” I found this to be a strange concern as all five of my children have done their own laundry for some time. One of the benefits of having a large family is that you don’t have the time to indulge your children the way our culture thinks you should.

All mothers would agree that laundry is one of the most time consuming tasks we face. Although my reaction to my peers is harsh, I must take a step back and remember how I stopped the “doing everyone’s laundry” syndrome. I wish I could say that in my ultimate wisdom I knew it would be an important step into adulthood, but I cannot; no … the “doing your own laundry” routine came about in a somewhat violent and willful act of defiance.

Years ago, after having tried all kinds of sorting techniques, I came up with a clever system that involved a multitude of colorful baskets. If each member in the family could do their own sorting, I could take a basket to the garage and calmly do one load per day. After the load was dry I would lovingly fold and place each person’s clean laundry onto an old book case in the garage. Each shelf was properly labeled with their names in descending age order. It was a system that I thought was reasonable and workable. Then one “game day” changed my whole laundry program, a day I am eternally grateful for.

My oldest child had just begun middle school. He was almost 11 at the time. I had spent the morning searching for all the pieces of his baseball uniform. Uniforms were exempt from the colorful baskets due to their importance. Finding all but the stirrup outer socks – navy blue – I ventured into his room. He continued with his video game. When asked about said socks, he answered me not. My search continued. Getting down on my knees I ventured under his bed. I began pulling out dirty clothes that failed to make it into the colorful baskets. “What is all this stuff? Why didn’t you put it in the colored hampers?”

Deliberately pausing his game, he slowly turned to me and said these crucial words,

“Don’t you have something better to do?”

My blood began to boil. “Yes, I do have ‘something better to do’ but you have a game today and I must wash your uniform. I need your socks. And get up and sort all this dirty laundry under your bed!”

The conversation quickly went south. Within moments we were in the back yard yelling at one another. I pleaded my case. If he could cooperate with the sorting system, everything would be fine. He insisted that I was constantly invading his personal space. Infuriated at his lack of thankfulness, my final blow sounded something like this.

“Then FINE! Do YOUR OWN LAUNDRY!” I challenged.

His reply changed my world, “I WILL!”

“GOOD!” I smartly retorted, and retreated to the garage.

I don’t remember if I found the sock, but I do remember that I never did his laundry again. And, as a bonus, my other children wanted to know why they couldn’t do their own laundry too. I was dumbfounded. What a crazy odd thing to happen. Not knowing how my younger children would manage the washing and drying machines, we set established the using of these important appliances as a rite of passage at the age of 10. My sorting system slowly went away as each child picked out a stylish laundry basket for their own rooms.

I must confess that sometimes my children wore clothes that weren’t clean. I had to learn to turn my head and not try to fix this … but at least this overwhelming task moved out of my realm of duty into theirs. They couldn’t be mad at me if their favorite shirt wasn’t clean or their jeans were dried too long. Being responsible for their own laundry eliminated many, many arguments. It also taught them valuable lessons about caring for their possessions and planning ahead.

I’m still surprised when I hear parents complain about laundry. I encourage them to teach their children to do their own laundry. It is part of life. I mean, after all you don’t dress them once they can do it for themselves. Laundry is no different – teach them how to do it and let them do it! It’s good for them and really, “Don’t you have something better to do?”

~ ily momma

Monday’s Musing – Wisdom from Nat

This song came along in my Pandora feed. I love Nat King Cole. He’s very young in this video and little self-conscience, but it’s good.

It is an odd set a lyrics but full of a great truth – “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

The greatest gift we can give our children is love; to love and be loved in return. ~ily momma

My Momma’s Favorite Christmas Hymn

I’m blessed to have my Momma’s 1940 Hymnal. Faded blue cloth binding shields her handwriting throughout the pages. I know her favorite Christmas hymn because one day she told me “This is my favorite Christmas hymn.” Did I care when she told me–no, probably not–but I care now.

Often as parents we get busy, caught up in rushing here and there. So busy that we forget to share the nuances of who we are with our children. One day you will be gone. What will your child remember about you? That you were really good at rushing here and there … or that you loved old MGM movies, hated wearing shoes and really liked getting hand-written letters in the mail? Will they know your favorite Christmas hymn?

In the hustle and bustle of this busy time of year, take a moment to share a little bit of YOU with your child. ~ily momma

Enjoy my Momma’s favorite Christmas Hymn Lo, How a Rose e’re Blooming from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Choir

buy album on iTunes

Lyrics
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
with Mary we behold it,
the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to us a Savior,
when half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story
proclaimed by angels bright,
how Christ, the Lord of glory
was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
and in the manger they found him,
as angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere;
true man, yet very God,
from sin and death he saves us,
and lightens every load.

Monday’s Musing – Noël

Here is a thoughtful excerpt from Noël by Anne Porter.
read the full poem at poets.org

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

Sadness – Talk About It

I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing about this just before Christmas – the deep, deep sadness and senseless violence that is rocking our world. My husband and I went out last night, for dinner then to our daughter’s high school holiday program. The tragedy in Sandy Hook was on everyone’s heart and mind. There was heaviness – everywhere. Something that could be felt between us and seen on one another’s faces.

As parents we naturally want to shield our children from pain and suffering, yet we cannot. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Into each life some rain must fall.” But this tragedy feels like too much rain, a torrential downpour. I think the difference with this situation is the unspoken thought that we all feel:  “That could have been my child.”

As we sort through and grapple with how close to home this hits us, it is important not to miss the opportunity to talk with our children about sadness and tragedy. A friend on FB posted, “My preschooler just saw the flag at half-mast. How do I explain to him why? What can I tell him about this awful thing?”

As adults we often think full-disclosure is best – that’s honest, right? No, not necessarily. You begin by keeping the conversation age-appropriate. A preschooler needs a different answer than a teenager does. Answer the questions they’re asking and keep it simple. “The flag is at half-mast because some children were hurt at their school.” Turn off the TV and radio. Don’t overwhelm them with details they don’t need to know. Be with them if they need you and assure them they are safe. Children take their cues from the adults around them: “If Mom and Dad are ok, then I’m ok.”

Tragedies like this one are dreadful to ponder, let alone to give voice to. Yet it is through the act of talking about it that we can teach. You mustn’t be afraid to talk about sadness. Tragedy gives us the opportunity to grapple with the complexities of life and with how everything fits into the scheme of our faith, including difficult times. Take the opportunity to introduce your child to the fullness of God, His love and His compassion. And be “ok” with things you yourself don’t fully understand.

There is a great paradox that eludes us when thinking on extreme violence and senseless loss – that is, although we are made in God’s image, God is not like us, nor does He think like us.

I do not say this flippantly; I was confronted with this paradox at the young age of 9. My grandmother was violently murdered, senselessly, when she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She became an innocent victim of a drug-deal gone bad. Not the magnitude of 20 murdered kindergartners, but a tragedy that rocked my young world as sadly and as violently as this one has rocked our nation.

When my grandmother was murdered, NO ONE talked about it, ever. I had neither the tools nor the wherewithal to process this great sadness. It was hard to imagine why God allowed this violence to touch our lives. The years after were marked by fear, confusion and uncertainty. I was well into my 20’s before I ever began admitting my fears and disappointment with God.

I think back on my poor mother and the deep despair that almost overtook her. That we never talked about it is not her fault, nor my father’s. They did the best they could at the time. But certainly there must have been an adult in my life who could have bravely attempted to help me get through the confusion. A teacher? A neighbor? Someone … anyone?

We’re all holding our children a little closer today, regardless of their ages, mourning for the great loss of young life. Don’t be afraid to allow your child to mourn with you. What happened is sad. God is sad, too – He isn’t our adversary when tragedy hits, He is our ally. Help them to reconcile sadness to the best of their ability. Think of it as a small inoculation to prepare them for their own sadnesses.

Bad things happen, sadness is inevitable, but God is faithful and will give you the wisdom and insight that you need, when you ask. Remember what Jesus told His disciples: “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.” (John 16:3b)  ~ ily momma

________

O God, whose most dear Son did take little children into his arms and bless them; Give us grace, we beseech thee, to entrust the souls of these children to thy never-failing care and love, and bring us all to thy heavenly kingdom; through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of all comfort; Deal graciously, we pray thee, with all those who mourn, that, casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

And always, we begin again …

Welcome to my website. I launch this new web presence on the anniversary of my first-born’s birth and in honor of my mother. My son will turn 26 today, and just 2 months ago marked the 25th anniversary of my momma’s death. She died when he was just 10 months old.

The collision of these two life-changing events – becoming a mother while my own mother slowly slipped from this world into the next – was the single most formative event of my life. I look back and wonder, how did I do it? I was 28, she was 48, she had all the answers, I had none – and then I had not even her. My journey was a difficult one, but one that was marked with much joy, laughter and learning, for there, in my mother’s absence, God met me. He met me in my darkness, in my alone-ness.

Becoming a mother taught me so much: about human nature, about myself, about the world and most importantly about God. This website is from that decidedly Christian perspective. It must be for there was nothing else for me, no one else to turn to but God, to finally look outside of myself for the answers. My first 28 years alive were marked with selfish, self-centered ambition and actions; after becoming a mother, it was my turn, in succession, to set my own interests aside, as my mother had done for me, and her mother before her.

I’m not a doctor – there are plenty of great sites for that kind of help. I’m not a psychologist, nor a teacher, I’m a mother, a momma of five. I am a Christian, I struggle. I am a broken person, trying to train up and love broken children, in a broken world. The task has been big – bigger than I realized –  but with God’s wisdom, His unfailing love, and curious sense of humor, I have worked through my struggles, and learned from my own mistakes and the mistakes of those around me. I want to share what I’ve learned; this is an opportunity for me to turn my sadness and struggles into something useful.

In recent years, the role of mother has been minimized and misunderstood. I think the tide is turning. I meet young mothers every day – educated, bright young women – who are in their turn setting aside their own self-centeredness in order to make the needed sacrifices for their own children. It is my goal to be one of the many voices of guidance on the internet, yet I approach that purpose in a uniquely eclectic fashion, as unique as I am. I hope you will join me on this journey; it should be fun.

~ ily momma