It was a cold winter day in early 1989 when I surprised Benny with a question. We were on a couples retreat with the pastors and wives we served alongside at our church in Virginia. Our dinner interaction to begin the retreat involved picking marriage and family-related questions out of a basket to read aloud and answer: some funny, others serious. I made sure the basket was passed to insure Benny went last. I secretly removed the remaining question in the basket and replaced it with one I had prepared especially for him.
He opened the folded paper and read, “How do you feel about being the father of six?” Puzzled, he glanced at me. “Six? Huh?” I saw the wheels turning. My girlfriends got it before he did but they waited….
“Yes, six,” I responded. “I’m pregnant.”
Eight months later another little blonde, blue-eyed baby was born — our sixth in eleven years. His five siblings were waiting in a nearby room at the hospital, eager to meet their baby brother. An already full house was now fuller. More laundry; delayed sleep; no-longer-hot food; pacing with a fussy baby. And more teary conversations with Benny about being tired and overwhelmed.
Keep reading. This post isn’t just about me. If you’re a mom or plan to be a mom, it’s about you, too.
Yesterday number six turned 23 and I didn’t see him because he’s away at law school. After 22 birthday cakes and singing “Happy Birthday” with his sibs and clapping when he blew out his candles and watching his eyes light up with each gift, I had to settle for a phone exchange.
I really don’t know where the years went. Even the nights that crawled by when every tick of the clock reminded me that he and I were the only ones still awake now seem so short.
On Thursday I said “you’re gonna miss this” and today I want to encourage you to get ready — sooner than you think you’ll be looking up to them.
Right now they fit in your lap. Tug on your pants. Stain your clothes with their spit up or sticky faces. Interrupt your phone calls and mess up your folded laundry. Miss the toilet. And maybe refuse to respond to other’s outstretched arms because they want to be with you. But soon — very soon — they’ll be too big to carry or hold in your lap and will want to spend time with others more often than you’ll probably desire.
it happens so gradually that it actually sneaks up on you. But one day you’ll notice it…and it will seem like it happened overnight. His voice starts to deepen and dad says it’s time to show the same kid you use to quickly grab the razor from how to use it. Her little stick legs take shape and you notice she’s being unusually giggly around a two-inches-shorter-than-her boy. You find yourself holding your hand up against your shoulder to show friends how tall they’re getting and just as you get used to looking eye to eye they walk away and…wait… did you just have to tilt your eyes upward?
Your baby became a toddler became a teen. Days that crawled along suddenly seem like they whizzed by. Remember the six-week appointment when you were relieved to hear he had gained weight? What about that first Christmas she didn’t ask for a baby doll — but you bought one anyway just to prove she was still your little girl? Suddenly they start adding opposite sex names to birthday invite lists when just yesterday they adhered to the unspoken, universal rule in Sunday School that girls and boys don’t even sit at the same table!
Please live today for tomorrow. You are building a relationship with your little ones. Don’t be so consumed in mothering tasks (which are many!) that you miss enjoying and getting to know your child. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that patterns of anger and frustration with them won’t affect whether they’ll want to be around when they’re 16. When my kids were little I regularly reminded myself that I was building a foundation on which much would be carried during their adolescent and young adult years. With God’s strength, I could build something frail and selfish that could be easily destroyed — or something solid and lasting that could endure the common parent/teen challenges to come. I made mistakes I now regret and am enjoying the fruit of God-energized sacrifice. Yes, the regrets sometimes haunt me but the fruit is sweeter than I anticipated.
Your baby will soon lose the tooth you just celebrated. Before you know what hit you, the child who just learned to read will be studying a driver’s manual for an upcoming test. And without much warning the kid who willingly held your hand in public stiffens slightly or pulls away — and you know you won’t be walking hand in hand again.
So enjoy every hug when people are around and when they’re not. When they interrupt after you’ve tried to train them not to, make sure they don’t feel like an inconvenience in your otherwise important life as you gently remind them…again. Stoop down or pick them up to get as much eye to eye contact as possible. And even when punishment is warranted, work hard to make it easy for them to confess their wrongs so when their temptations become more serious they’ll know it’s okay to tell Mom anything because of how often she reminded them that she, too, messes up.
With each inch they grow, be there. Be there to read a story when you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open. To listen when you desperately need someone to talk to. To cheer and rejoice and congratulate their little accomplishments when you long for someone to look you straight in the eyes to say you’re doing a good job.
I’m looking up to seven now. Yesterday Jake posted kind and humbling words on my Facebook that reminded me of why young, tired, distracted moms keep giving and loving and serving year after year.
I’m looking forward to Friday afternoon when a tall young man will walk into the house (probably singing). Yesterday he told me he’s looking forward to his double chocolate birthday cake. We’ll sing “Happy Birthday” and clap when he blows out the candles. We may even be able to “do something” on Saturday — just the two of us. And that was his idea.
Yes, I tilt my head up to him now. No longer a baby, toddler or teen. He’s a man. Our relationship is different and there’s another woman in his life who made the trip to celebrate his birthday. She’s delightful — and if she’s the woman Benny and I have been preparing him for all these years I will gladly step aside and make sure she becomes his go-to lady.
But he’s still and will always be my son.
Keep building that relationship with your little ones. And get ready to look up.