Monday, August 16, 2010

Mother Math

Firstborns get a lot of attention.

As a second-born child myself, I often wondered if my parents' heart priority rested on my older if the "wow factor" of his firsts equaled love.

It wasn't until I had a second-born child that I learned the truth. God made hearts to add and multiply, not subtract and divide.

When I was pregnant with Katie, I wondered how I could love another baby as much as Abigail. I worried that I wouldn't have enough love to cover two babies - as if the total quotient of my mother love would divide and divide each time I had another child. So, if my mother-love value was a hundred, and I had 2 children, then each would receive 50 mother-love 'points'....three children would reduce that to 33.3....etc. It took me a nanosecond after Katie's birth to realize the converse was actually true - my heart MULTIPLIED to twice its normal size...and then TRIPLED when I had Benjamin.

The reason for my musing this week on my "mother math" is because we're flying out with Katie tomorrow to get her freshman year started at University of Oklahoma. It reminds me of last year doing (relatively) the same with Abby - up and over the mountains to Pullman... but now we go up and over a few mountain ranges, then over the plains - and somewhere in a corn field we leave our second-born.

I think the second time rivals the first. The heart space where Katie resides is sensitive to the touch - I can be in the aisle at Fred Meyer buying her favorite tea when all of a sudden a pain strikes - "WAIT! She is actually NOT going to be drinking this at home!" And the tears spring into my eyes. Or, I can glance over at her working on her laptop and I catch a twinkle in her chocolate eyes...and I think "AAAAHHH - that chair will be empty next week." More tears.

Katie's presence in our home is uniquely her own - missing her will be unique as well. Whereas Abigail brings lively and loud percussion to the music that defines our family, Katie adds in more of a string section - sometimes mellow cello, sometimes melodious violin, sometimes playful fiddle...but always able to harmonize (even purposefully discordant when she is being a Bug), as is characteristic of a middle child. Like a chord, the middle note adds depth and richness and roundness to the sound - taking it out makes the sound structure seem empty. Katie is our perfectly pitched middle note, and her absence will make our home feel spare.

Katie, we don't love you because of the things you DO, but because of who you ARE. However - the things you do add to our homelife in such valuable ways!!! Thank you for keeping our cookie jar full so that we can be hospitable and that your daddy can have a few extra calories. Thank you for being the housekeeper on my busy days so that our family comes home to a peaceful environment with clean surfaces and a happy cat. Thank you for being my listener and for being so in tune with my moods that you know the quiet questions to ask in just the right timing...and thank you for not being afraid of my tears or my anger. On the contrary, thank you for your compassion and continually pointing me to the cross for my value and priorities. Thank you for underscoring our lives with a soundtrack of Truth and Beauty. Thank you for being our free marriage counselor. :) Thank you for your friendship and your unconditional love, despite our ENFP-J/ISTJ differences. Thank you for joining me in my music obsessions or tolerating me when I hit "repeat" on certain phrases....and for being my confidante about so many issues this year. I love that you are a safe sounding board for your friends, a vault of confidentiality and trust...and I love that you are that for me, too.

Katie, thank you for showing me that love is to be multiplied. God has shown His love for me by letting me be your mother - what an awesome, sweet, glorious, breathtakingly amazing privilege!!! While I will miss your dear presence in our daily life, I REJOICE that I carry you in my heart - the one you doubled in size.

I will sing to the LORD,
for He has been good to me.
Proverbs 13:6

Friday, April 16, 2010

You've been told to not grocery shop when you're hungry, right? This helps avoid the abundance of impulse purchases heaping up over the cart, draining your bank account and padding your thighs.

Blogging with a full heart is similar. This past week has been full of plans for Katie's college decision, culminating last night in
fairly firm vision for where she'll be going in the fall. This draws to a close her YEARS of college hunting/researching/scrutinizing, and closes the more recent season of debate, prayer, deliberation, paperwork and prep. While we sat at the dinner table and spoke words of finality, reality set in.

Katie is moving out in the fall and going far away.

It is going to take me more than just this one blog to unpack all of my thoughts and emotions regarding this reality - even with me being the
owner of said thoughts and emotions I don't completely yet grasp the fullness of them!

But I do know one thing this morning. OK, maybe I know two things. One: when I came downstairs to the kitchen this morning, I could see the footprints of Jon and Kate from the night before. The cookie jar was half full, meaning Katie had baked a batch and Jon had consumed almost all of them....classic. Two little teabags were left on the counter, tea kettle and honey....evidence that the night-owl buddies had lingered once again together, computing and companionshipping while the rest of the house slept.
I will miss this, and miss the significance of what two little teabags on a counter represents.

But I do know a second thing: God is guiding Katie to the next chapter of her life, and even though that is far away from home, it seems to be where He wants her. Therefore, I rejoice. I cry for myself and for Jon (and Dusty and Ben too), but I rejoice. There's nowhere else I'd rather her be than smack dab inside His Will, even if that results in just one teabag on the counter every morning.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise. (Psalm 111:10)

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Because You ARE the Mom"

“She doesn’t talk to you because you ARE the mom,” she said.

It was a surgeon’s scalpel phrase, applied itself to the wellspring of my heart – the source of my deepest value – relationship. Next to my husband, there is no one on earth I’d rather have that faithful, intimate connection with than my own children. And to think my position of “mom” was a wall rather than a bridge to that connection…arrggh.

They say it is part of the Independence Phase, like when she was a toddler and insisted on “I can do it myseff, aww by myseff.” I’m trying to remember the bittersweetness of that phase as we journey through the teen years – specifically the push and pull of tender toddler affection, tempestuous and mercurial. How my arms stayed open for the chance to hold her after playtime adventures, knowing eventually her battery would run low and she’d need a soft landing…or that a scraped knee would hasten her towards me for some TLC. Or, because I held the magic of reading, my lap was a welcome place for the effervescent bookworm. Cuddles and read-alouds were just manifestations of what she didn’t recognize at the time – unconditional love.

Her journey through toddler independence was applauded with such encouragement! Perhaps it was because we knew this was a natural step for her to take, and it would result in such wonderful opportunities – education, adventure, purpose…and relationships other than my own. Of course, we also knew that there were still years to bond with her – so many family vacations left to take, so many daily moments together….it was preposterous to think the push-pull would be permanently “PUSH.”

Perhaps the difference is that with teenagers is that the push-pull could possibly not resolve. We actually do not have years of bonding and daily connection guaranteed to counterbalance the push. Some things are similar – the hope that with this independence they have education, adventure, purpose, and other relationships as blessings. They may financially return to the nest, or practically need to return for lodging and food…but relationally they can take their hearts somewhere else. I think that is what is eating at the issue….a mother of teens realizes she could face the ultimate rejection. Not to mention the fear of being displaced – of having your child tell you “I do not prefer you. I do not trust you with who I am and what I feel/think/say/do. I can do it myself, all by myself.”

Parents can hold financial or practical carrots in front of their child to buy their time and attention. But I don’t know of any parent who is content to offer only those things – because those are just manifestations of what lies beneath….the unconditional LOVE…the yearning for relationship.

Today I am going to focus on that unconditional love as we step further down the path of the teen years. If I truly, unconditionally, love my child, that will not change if the flavor is push versus pull. I will want her best… and DO my best to mother her the way God designed me to. Regardless. And I will keep my arms open, just in case.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…
Malachi 4:6