I wrote this after posting a synopsis my daughter’s birthday events on my personal Facebook wall. After reading my own post, I thought about all of my friends whose children are going through the lurch-and-soar adolescent and young adult years…
The parents who tense up every time their sullen child walks through the room. The parents whose baby birds are royally screwing the nest up but not quite flying yet. The ones who cannot possibly foresee their kids losing the attitude and sass. The ones whose hearts are breaking. The ones up all night praying that their babies will ‘come back around.’
It occurred to me that one single Facebook post about a blissful evening with one’s grown-up children over-simplifies the experience, waters it down. It was kind of nauseating, really, without any back-story. So I am writing this for the battle-weary parents out there who thought it couldn’t get any worse than the terrible twos (it can, and it does, I’m sorry to tell you. Each year of your child’s life you have less and less control.)
Take heart! One day you will really genuinely LIKE your kids and look forward to having them all in one room! Crazy, right? But you will!
What a difference a couple of years can make. Just wrapped up the family birthday party for my precious Firstborn, turning 23. She came over early so we had some one-on-one time before the party. I love spending time with my daughters.
“Mom, will you teach me how to cross stitch?” she says, out of the clear blue sky.
So I do, and we talk and stitch, catching up on things. I tell her that cross stitching is not complicated. It is just making little x’s. And then continuing to make little x’s until you see the bigger picture.
“If you veer off the pattern, improvise,” I told her. “Get creative and make something beautifully original from it.”
Watching my wild and zany offspring – the one who only a couple of years ago required some painful (for both of us) Tough Love – the one whose Edgar Allen Poe “Nevermore” tattoo is still healing on her arm – navigate a sewing hoop with a needle and floss? It was darling, I tell you. She is adorable, and I’m not just saying that because I am her mother.
We’ve been through some tough times in our relationship. We are so similar it can be annoying to both of us. And where we are different, we are SO different. My children and I still disagree on TONS of things. So many things that it could easily cause a rift, if we allowed it. I refuse to allow it.
Kids go through all kinds of phases, but here is the big secret: So do we, as parents.
My younger daughter arrived to the party, and we all get louder and more animated, as has always been the case. We aren’t a quiet, staid family. By the time the boyfriend of the birthday girl arrives, my husband is home, and I serve a roast and mashed potatoes – very June Cleaver of me, even if they were Bob Evans frozen mashed potatoes and cheesecake from Costco.
The evening continued as a dinner for grown up people who love each other … not like a tense and drama-laden mandatory occasion to get together and sing happy birthday because that’s the thing to DO on one of our birthdays. Honestly, when the girls were all teens, I dreaded birthdays, because someone always had her knickers in a knot for every family occasion. Somebody was PMSing ALL the time, myself included.
It occurs to me how VERY much I like my kids (I love them of COURSE)….but I just really like them as human beings, too. These beautiful, interesting, hilarious, passionate, and loving people I got to give birth to because God somehow determined in his Mysterious Ways that I was up to the challenge. And challenging it has been, but so, so precious is that honor.
Peace. No fights. Just love, and inside jokes and warmth. And cheesecake, of course!
We sang a haphazard version of “Happy Birthday” and she opened presents. The wrapping on the gifts had been chewed on my two very naughty kitty cats who shall remain unnamed. Also, one of the gift bags was old. It’s probably been in circulation since 1997. But no matter.
Parenting is like cross stitching. You just make one ‘x’ at a time. Some of them are messy stitches, but if you never saw the back of the fabric, you would never know. To the casual observer, it might appear to have been easy work, raising kids.
Everyone has messy needle-work on the side that doesn’t face the world. That family down the street in the big house, the family that participates in activities together every night of the week and whose kids go on mission trips? The “perfect” mom you see at preschool whose very presence makes you feel disheveled and less-than?
They have knots and tangles, too.
And you know what? God LOVES that side. He loves us, messy stitches and all.
One of my dear friends has a daughter approaching “Magical Seven.” The age of seven is – in my humble opinion – the pinnacle of parenting because at that age kids are still sweet and think you hung the moon. They are just delightful. After I posted about my Firstborn’s wonderful birthday evening at the house, she asked me if I had any advice on weathering the adolescent years. Is there anything you can do to prepare?
My kids are 20 and 23, and 23 (I’m blessed extra by having a Bonus Daughter), and I will not even PRETEND to have the actual useful answers. But I HAVE learned this:
Hang tight. Love hard. Don’t be afraid to make a hard bottom line and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m sorry.” Pray lots. Laugh tons. Find common ground, it’s always there. Never give up hope! Remember that she is not an extension of you…a part of you, yes; but not an extension. Her mistakes will be her own, and she will make them. But she WILL BE OKAY and so will you. And before you know it, she is calling you out of the clear blue sky to ask you to meet her for sushi or to see a movie. And while you are lunching with this young woman, you will be astonished that there was a time that she was so sassy and downright mean to you. She may even say, “Hey mom? I’m sorry I was such an asshole.” And you will say “I’m sorry I was an asshole sometimes, too. I made a lot of mistakes.”
Because that sort of thing can totally happen, and did to me.
I’m so grateful for all we have to do as mothers is keep making little x’s to the best of our ability until we see the bigger picture. Sometimes the finished product doesn’t look at all like the pattern but is even more beautiful. We make it complicated, but It isn’t our masterpiece to make.
And if you, as a parent, veer too far from the pattern? Improvise. God will make something beautifully original from it.