Letting go….welcoming home

So many milestones and so many emotions. Most of us remember the first day we watched our sweet 5 year old climb the stairs of the bus to head off to Kindergarten.   I don’t know about you but I was a little teary eyed.  The worst one was my youngest. He was excited and I was feeling a little lonely.  But after a bit, wow I actually got some things accomplished!  Then I remember sending my oldest to college – her graduation was a time of rejoicing for all of us. She struggled all through high school and that diploma was a huge victory for her~ but college, well that was hard. I didn’t sleep much for the first week. Then, I discovered a whole host of positives and started to enjoy her journey with her.  Sending my son on a mission was easy.  I missed him but I knew exactly what he was going to experience and I loved every minute of that journey.  Watching him come home early was the hard part.  Experiencing the struggle he has had the past four months has been heart wrenching so you’d think that last Sunday when I put him on a plane for South Carolina that I would be rejoicing in the fact that he is embarking on a new journey of self discovery.  I think I cried more that weekend than any other time I have had to watch a child go, and yet now, once again, i can see positives for him and for our family.

  As a parent, we have to experience many types of letting go.  Some, like the ones I mentioned, are obvious.  Graduations, wedding, missions, college, work….all are part of our children’s growing up processes. They are milestones in their lives that signify that maybe as a parent, we have done something right.  Yet how often do we second guess ourselves during these milestones?  Have I taught them everything they need to know?  Have I helped them gain the confidence they will need to succeed?  Do they know the value of hard work?  Will they make the right choices once they are out of my sphere of influence?  Will they remember the things they have been taught?  Is the world ready for my child?  All we can tell ourselves is that we did our best.  And really, the most important question that we need to ask is, Do they know that I love them, no matter what?

There are so many types of letting go that we do as parents besides the physical.  We have to let go of anger, of fear, of our own personal dreams, of financial stability and a host of other things.  But we have chosen to do that willingly because we love being mothers and fathers.

This is going to get a bit personal, but this last week was Easter. As I have thought about watching my son leave and how much it hurt, my thoughts kept returning to my Father in Heaven and how He had to watch His children leave to come to earth. My children, as I send them off, remember me.  They hopefully know that i love them and that I am constantly here for them.  His children came to earth with absolutely no memory of Him, or the life they lived before.  They (we) are taught by earthly parents and guided by a conscience (which we refer to as the light of Christ) or by the Holy Ghost.  His children have to learn of Him through teachings and then through faith.  They don’t get to go home for Christmas. They don’t get the comfort of a hug when things go bad.  They don’t have the ability to talk with Him face to face, instead have to learn to pray and how to understand how the Spirit communicates with them.  A long, drawn out process that can take years.  I can’t even imagine how He does it.  How He has let us go so perfectly and how patiently He waits for us to come to Him.  

Then, on top of all of this, there is Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother.  As I watched my son leave, I knew he would have difficult times. I knew he would struggle.  There would be moments he would want to give up.  i also knew that I am just a phone call away. That whatever he deals with, i am going to be there. I also knew that he would have to walk some of this journey alone in order to grow.  I know that is exactly what Heavenly Father knows about us, but when I think about Gethsemane and the cross at Golgotha, it takes my breath away. As a father, it must have been beyond words to watch the suffering His son went through in Gethsemane.  I imagine He sent angels to be with the Savior because He couldn’t be there.  Then as Christ hung on the cross, can you imagine how painful it must have been for Heavenly Father to leave Jesus to suffer alone.  So much so that he cried out to the Father and asked why He had forsaken him.  It was necessary but I don’t know if I could have done it.  Kind of gave a whole new perspective to the letting go process to me.  I am grateful for the examples of my Father in Heaven and my Heavenly Mother (if you aren’t LDS – ask me about what we believe about her).  They show me every day the kind of parent I know I need to be.  

 I guess that what I want to end up saying is that letting go isn’t such a bad thing, even though it is hard.  I know the day my son flies home from South Carolina, I am going to see why it was so important to let him go.  And isn’t that what letting go is all about, welcoming them home again?!  I know to the Father it is.

Being Brave Enough to Choose Love

Elanor from Disney’s Brave

 

If I am emotionally compromised in any way, the Disney movie Brave will turn me into a sobbing mess. There’s something about the animation of the turbulent mother/daughter relationship that gets right to my heart.

Why is it that daughters tend to fight so hard against the “control” of their mothers? And why do mothers allow their need to nurture and protect their daughters to morph into an absurd power struggle? I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know from personal experience that far too often my daughters’ teen years have, at times, devolved into a contest of wills instead of the time of golden opportunity they should be. The solution to the heart-wrenching problem is not easy, but it is simple. Love.

Love is the root of many of my conflicts with my daughters. Because I love them, I want them to make the choices that will bring good things into their lives. But far too often when I want to see them accomplish something, I drag them along like a steam engine, jerking through the twists and dragging  up the inclines. What I ought to do is act more like an aerotow for a glider–lifting them to great heights and then letting them glide through their own flight. Love is the root emotion behind the panic when I see them falling, but what is too often expressed is the screaming anger my panic inspires. If I could realize and remember the deep love behind the panic, it might be a little easier to have the wisdom necessary to guide them as I should.

As a daughter, I often feel the need to break the proverbial apron strings and manage my own hearth and home. I misinterpret concern as meddling and advice as manipulation. If I can open my heart to the love my mother feels for me when she tries to guide me along and embrace that love instead of fighting against it, perhaps I can resist building the walls that close me off from all I still have to learn from the woman who loves me in a way no one else knows how to love me.

I watched Brave again last night with my youngest daughter. She and I have not yet entered the turbulent mother-with-a-teen-aged-daughter years. We didn’t start out the movie watching it “together.” She sat on one side of the room and I on the other. But in the pivotal final moments of the movie when I began to weep as I so often do, my “baby girl” (who is almost eight) closed the distance between us, wrapped her arms around me, and just held me. When I echoed Elanor’s movements and covered my daughter’s face with kisses, she giggled and held me closer. It was a moment of blissful emotion-filled joy unencumbered with unnecessary struggle. I hope and pray I will be wise enough to hold that memory in my heart and mind so that I will choose golden opportunity over a contest of wills, so that I will remember the love at the root of the panic, so that I will lift her up and then watch her soar.

Thoughts about Prom

 

Tonight is Prom night–a night that fills some mothers’ hearts with worry, fear, even dread, and if it doesn’t, it probably should. But my heart is filled with different emotions, positive emotions. My heart is filled with happiness, joy, peace, and most of all gratitude.

I have absolutely stunning twin daughters who are members of an elite high school drill team. They have an outward appearance that can, and sometimes does, attract a great deal of unwanted attention. But they are beautiful girls whose beauty doesn’t stop at their appearance; it radiates from the inside out. Because they are lovely at heart, they have beautiful goals and dreams, and they want to fill their lives with virtuous things. That alone would be enough to fill my heart with all the positive emotions I listed, and more, but I have even more to be grateful for.

My beautiful daughters are growing up in a world that is, in far too many respects, ugly. Sin and debauchery is no longer shunned, but, rather, embraced and even celebrated. Young girls are encouraged to flaunt their physical beauty by being more enticing and alluring than truly beautiful. This is especially true on Prom night. My daughters have happily chosen beauty over sexiness. They paid a talented seamstress who shares their values to alter their dresses for the sake of modesty. They chose to reveal less of their bodies and more of their character. They chose to help their dates focus on their eyes and their personalities. They chose to allow everyone to be a little bit more comfortable in their presence.

These wonderful choices and characteristics of my daughters have brought about another reason for me to feel gratitude today; the choices they have made so far in their lives have caught the attention of some very amazing young men, and today I am also grateful for them.

These young men have also chosen to fill their lives with good and virtuous things. They are involved in scouting and youth leadership training. They work hard at their jobs and have set meaningful goals for their future.  They are dedicated to their church, and they love their Father in Heaven and their Savior enough to act in their behalf by serving their fellow men. These choices and character traits have made them the kind of young men who treat my daughters with respect–treat them like the daughters of God they are. They are the kind of young men who will not take my daughters anywhere I don’t want my daughters to be, because these young men don’t want to be in those places, let alone take someone else there. They are the kind of young men who not only honor their parents by being obedient, but also honor their parents by doing things that bring honor to them.

I am also thankful for the parents of these young men. I am thankful that they have set rules and expectations for their sons that not only protect their sons, but also protect my daughters. I am thankful that these parents, themselves, have chosen to live virtuous lives and set good examples for their wonderful sons to follow.

All of these things fill my heart with gratitude and peace, because I am a mother, and I love my daughters. I want them to be safe. I want them to be treated with respect and dignity. I want them to act respectable and dignified. Their choices, and the choices of the young men they date, have made my desires for them very likely to be realized. This gives me peace. This gives me joy. This makes me grateful. But I am also happy.

I am happy because I know that they will not sit around reading scriptures all night. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when they read scriptures. I expect them to read scriptures, and they do. But there is a time and a place for that. Tonight (and today during their day-date) they will all laugh and joke and play. They will talk about silly things. They will have an abundance of good, wholesome fun. They will fill their hearts with wonderful memories to look back on and smile about when life gets difficult, because life will get difficult. But tonight they will set aside difficulties, work, stress, and hardship. Tonight is a night for building happy memories.

I love being a mother. I especially love being a mother to wonderful children who make choices that fill their lives with goodness and allow me to have days, like today, when I can bask in warm feelings of happiness, peace, joy, and gratitude.

Words of Love Have Great Power

Image found at motivequote.net

Some days I wonder if I make a difference in the lives of my children. I often feel like more of a lecturer/nag/maid than a role model or someone they trust and cherish, but every once in a while I hear tender words that tell me I really do make a difference in their lives.

A few weeks back I received six sentences in an e-mail from a son who’s been serving an LDS mission for 15 months:
“Thanks so much for being my mother. You are a great woman, and I am thankful for everything you have done for me! You have helped me learn so much and taught me more than you know. (I’m sure that you’re crying now. Stop crying. I love you!)”
It’s kind of cute how well he knows me, and that he thought to tell me to stop crying,  but his words of foresight didn’t stop the tears, then or now. I still cry every time I read his message.

How can the same six simple sentences so consistently move me to tears? The words themselves aren’t especially emotionally charged. I’m sure most people who read them don’t cry. So, why do they make me cry? Probably because I love my children like I’ve never loved anyone else. I devote my life to them, and I don’t regret the sacrifice. My greatest desire as a mother is to have my love and service give them the courage, strength, wisdom, belief–all that they need–to realize their full potential and to live lives filled with true joy. When I hear or see something that helps me understand that my greatest desire as a mother is being realized, even in a small way, it fills my heart with joy and the hope that I can continue to give my children good gifts.

Reflecting on these thoughts today has turned my thoughts in another direction as well. I wonder how many times important words go unsaid–how many times important feelings go unexpressed. Marion C. Garretty said, “Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.” Is it? How can it be if it is never expressed in a way that it can be heard and deeply felt? And if it is the fuel that has enabled a normal human being to do the impossible, does his or her mother know her love has had such power? How can she if she has never been told?

I hope that we will all try to remember that though we desperately need to hear the words of love our hearts are hungering for, we also desperately need to express the important loving words in our hearts.
If your mother needs to hear that she helped you accomplish the impossible, tell her. If your children are running low on the fuel of belief and encouragement you have to offer, fill them up with pure unconditional love.
There is unimaginable power in love! Use your power for good today.