Sliding into Lasts and Firsts

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Mothers are all slightly insane.
― J.D. Salinger

It’s the time of day that drags and hustles at the same time. I await the front door’s slide across the tile with high schoolers afresh with afternoon plans – or a return to bed – either is an equal possibility. And the seventh grader’s text outlining plans with friends, or screens, or both. It’s the last slide to myself, and I might get time back, or I might not. Seems these days are rife with moving parts and pieces with few certainties.

When they were little we had our routine. Morning activities and meals, followed by naps, an hour or three of screaming, dinner, bath time, and bed. Now, the comings and goings, the routines, happen without me. Two drivers equals freedom for all.

The oldest graduates from high school in a bit under two months. I’m dragging my feet. He’s not. Seems there are parties and such for these sorts of things. And family visits and gifts and ceremonies. While I love the kid I dislike required party planning with invitations and clean houses. I prefer last minute party planning when everyone brings their favorite leftovers, with concessions made for dust bunnies and dirty bathrooms. But I do long for his accomplishments to be celebrated. And thankfully I’ve hitched my wagon to two other dedicated party planning mothers who seem to have the ability and follow through to actually make this thing happen.

Spring break is done and summer plans are blooming. There is an equal mix of anticipation for summer’s long days and dread for summer’s long days. The thumbs always get a hefty workout, it’s a wonder my children can function for the over-development of this particular digit. I’m counting on hand-eye coordination, or some fortunate diagnosis to emerge from the hours of video game battles.

And I’m still pastoring and planting a church. Stay-at-home-mom-turning-pastor has not been a delicate and natural process. Most days I’m unsure which end is up, while praying for a nap, and a release from my churning thoughts. I’m still on the steep learning curve, where every “yes” elicits a true and severe crisis of vulnerability, alongside an equal and opposite desire for pajamas and pillow. Yet, I love it. I love the stretching and the relief of accomplishment. The exhale is sweet and so is the beer. I have surprised myself.

Prom is this weekend. Then senior ditch day. A season of lasts followed by an equivalent season of firsts. Motherhood is a constant management of the anticipation of regret. If I choose this one thing for my career or myself or my partner will I regret the cost to my children? It’s a balancing act unlike anything I’ll ever experience. Is it a function of guilt? Shame? I don’t even know. I don’t know if I need to know.

I texted with a friend yesterday. We’ve raised our kids together. She said her daughter is on a short leash with severe restrictions. I responded with sympathy and sadness for the difficult time they are in. My friend surprised me, happy and relieved, grateful for the resulting sleep.

And every day is a new day with little predictability. Funny how their moods determine mine. Never did I think they would wield so much power over me.

As I press into a career, doing that which I love, I must navigate the momentary costs. And there’s a price for everything isn’t there? We will never know the perceptions of our children. We only do the best we can based on what we know, how we were parented, what we perceived as flaws in the system.

The pendulum swings. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes the swings are violent, but one hopes with therapy and time and maturity the swings settle, drifting across mid-point. They say (the older people in my life who’ve done this before) parenting never ends. I tell them to be quiet. I choose ignorance. I choose my assumptions.

My parenting story has been typical and normal, so far. My youngest is thirteen – we’ve still got potential for the wheels to fall off this bus. But I’m grateful. Their lives are my greatest teacher. Their pushes for independence have revealed my weaknesses. Their pulls have revealed my determination. Their differences have revealed my capacities for tenderness and patience (or lack thereof). And their growth has propelled my own.

I’ll get to the graduation and I’ll plan a party and I’ll continue to pastor and I’ll remain married. Somehow.

But this season is real and I’m not sure I can master the management of regret. I suspect regret is a byproduct of loving.  And loving well is fraught with unknowns.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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