When my children were younger I would, from time to time, find opportunity to sit and rock with them. Often my thoughts would turn to their innocence, awed at the absolute unknown of this little person’s future, overwhelmed at the bond I felt as their mother. Sometimes, though, I would think of the vilest of humanity: murders, tyrants, and other infamous persons. And I would wonder if, somewhere in time, a mother’s heart had once been pierced, her breath stolen for a moment, as she looked at her beautiful baby. Could she see the evil her child would one day become? When did they first glimpse the monster inside their child? Even the worst of us begin as innocent babes.
Whenever I’ve seen a marriage crumble, particularly in the early years of my own marriage, I would wonder when the cracks first appeared. Surely they were once happy to spend hours in each other’s presence, love sick? When did they suspect their marriage was doomed? Did they always know? Did they already know when they’d been married as long as myself or were they perfectly happy back then?
One day I watched a friend’s old family Christmas video. The years have erased the memory of why I saw it. Did I happen to stop by while it was playing? Was there something on it she wanted to show me? All I remember is seeing their son- one I had known only as a troubled young adult, deep into drugs and violence- as a happy, excited 10 year old. Exuberant over his new toys. Like all 10 year olds. This terrified me.
I suppose what I’ve wanted is some sort of guarantee that my happiness now will translate into happiness later. I liked to hope that lack of early warning signs meant an untroubled future. Even though my head warned differently, I could never get my heart to understand.
This week we found out my daughter was doing poorly in a couple classes. She didn’t tell us until the teacher sent home a note to be signed and returned. A lost book had led to uncompleted assignments and in a matter of a month her grades had been ruined. And I became scared. In middle school a poor grade isn’t so bad, but in two short years her poor choice could affect the rest of her life. In one month she could completely alter the course of her life- classes she can take, colleges she’ll qualify for.
And my heart finally admitted that I would have teenagers. I knew it. I knew it! Yet, somehow, I did not know it yet. My children will have to find their own way, make their own mistakes. They will make mistakes! They will make life determining decisions and learn hard life lessons. Even though I knew this, I somehow still believed my children would be different. They wouldn’t hate me. They wouldn’t test rules. They would always trust my experience and come to me for advice. By force of my will I would raise the teenagers other parents envy. But my will is only part of the equation. I can only prepare a foundation, the life built on it is not mine to construct.
I think I want to go back to worrying about when they will dump the next bottle of shampoo into the bathtub. I have good kids with good hearts. But this week my heart finally accepted that there are no real guarantees for life. I pray for wisdom. I’ll do the best I can. I will always be their mother. They will always have my heart, even if they don’t always handle it gently.
I have a few posts to write related to awards I've received over the last week, but I felt I couldn't write anything till I had gotten this off my chest. If you were expecting to laugh, try back next week.