I remember a comment made to me by an elderly woman who was a patient of mine. It was early morning and my shift was almost over. I moved quietly about her room, hoping to not disturb her, yet I could feel her watching me and finally I turned to discover I was right.
“You must be the mother of boys, “she said.
“I am.” She smiled, showing she was a little pleased with herself. “Three of them. How can you tell?”
She only shrugged and rolled over in bed. I’ve wondered more than a few times what she saw and I’ve even caught myself observing my friends who have only boys. I’ve noticed a few things:
We’re tired a lot. Boys, mine without exception, are high, high energy. We also adopt a military style of mothering. You shout a lot, you don’t hedge on your threats, and you become really creative with your discipline. I was a single mom for many of my parenting years, and I regret not cuddling and playing more, but I more often felt like I wished I carried a weapon. The Bible mentions a rod. I wanted a big rod, maybe with electrical current in it. Don’t get me wrong. I loved it all; building forts, camping, Little League, even the potty-talk. I grew up with three brothers so it was a very familiar world. But mothers of boys, I salute you. We are a tough lot.
I’ve been searching for a Mother of the Groom outfit this week. The internet directs me to “show up, shut up and wear beige.” I can manage that. My last boy is a man now and set to be married in just a few weeks. I am so blessed to be the mother of boys who picked incredible girls to marry. The old adage “A son leaves his mom to marry a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of your life” may be true, but I already have one daughter-in-law, Erin, who has truly become a beautiful daughter to me and my almost-daughter-in-law, Kayla, is a friend and total blessing. So I win all around. My boys are happy, mama’s happy and I gain two awesome daughters, not to mention the best part: grandchildren.
Yet I have to be totally honest. Looking for something to wear always reveals my deeper emotional temperament. At the Power of Forgiveness event held last winter on the ten year anniversary of my son, Spencer’s death, I worked myself into such a fury trying to dress for the night that I finally threw myself on the bed and cried.
“I’m not going to this stupid thing,” I announced to my husband who has known me long enough to know where this kind of behavior is leading.
“OK. I am, I’ll see you there,” he said as he slipped quietly out the door, knowing that the storm only calms when I’m left alone. And it did. After I cried again to God about missing my son, He helped me find something to wear, smoothed my puffy face and sent me out the door. It was a fantastic night.
If you’re a parent you know that life is sometimes measured and marked by significant occasions and junctures in life: birth, sickness, the victories and defeats, and the inevitable letting go. I still remember wearing sunglasses when I dropped my son Miles off at a college 800 miles from home. I was shocked by my own emotions. I thought I really couldn’t wait to send this 18 year old boy away. But I suddenly understood things were changing. Behold, he was becoming a man! Time to let go a little more, mama. Eight years later I danced with him at his wedding, a beautiful tradition I think, because it seems to be a great metaphor for life. Holding, loving and letting go.
Jake’s my baby, but I actually let go of a lot several years ago when I shipped him down south to a wonderful church and family that would love him and help him grow strong in Christ. It was a rescue mission, it was God’s direction for him, and again I cried as I drove away from the airport. But if this mom has learned anything at all, I’ve learned I can trust God with my boys. He has made them men that I am immeasurably proud of and I give Him ALL of the praise. So as I search for something to wear, and think about this next chapter of his life, which will be a life-long chapter with his lovely new wife, I feel a little like I did putting him on a plane, or a school bus. A mother of boys sends her little man out into the world, to build and conquer, to love and to cherish. But first, let’s have this last dance: holding, loving and letting go. Just don’t say anything if you see me in sunglasses.