I stand over the kitchen sink, eyeing several familiar Eskimo Joe’s cups in its open mouth. My son James, the one who brought the cups from his room some time ago, rummages through a cabinet.
“Uh, James darlin’,” I say, pointing at the stacks of colorful plastic cups. “Do you plan to put these in the dishwasher or do you hope they just apparate that direction on their own?” I tap tap tap the kitchen counter.
“Well mama,” he begins, taking another cup from the cabinet. “I kinda thought the kitchen fairies would take care of them?” He shrugs his shoulders, tilts his head sideways and grins.
I narrow my eyes at him in acknowledgment of my oft-repeated mantra concerning dishes left hither and yon, “There are no kitchen fairies in this house.”
I open the dishwasher door with a dramatic sweep of the hand.
“Try again, son.” I say as I move over to make room for him at the sink.
As I head upstairs to my bedroom, I think about how this kiddo and his twin brother graduate high school in just a few days. And I realize when they fly the coup, I might just miss seeing their stacks of cups in the sink.
This is a time of anticipation and excitement, when my husband and I actually high-five one another for getting these two men-children to high school graduation. That is no small thing, dear ones. Like so many of you who’ve done the same, we’ve driven a million miles in the minivan taking each one to school, activities, and playdates. We’ve helped with a thousand math assignments and proofread a hundred English papers. We’ve seen one kid’s wild will of iron and the other’s inability to sit still turn into glimpses of their futures.
But this is also a time that breaks our hearts a little, of realizing a definite ending approaches as a new beginning follows close behind. And it’s okay to mourn the ending even as the beginning is good, right, and exciting.
Really, I can’t get over this feeling I’m carrying something I’m about to let go, something that will wander with them to this next part of their lives. Sometimes it feels like a load lifted, like we’ve reached a big milestone and rightly reward ourselves by sitting in the warm sunshine with a double scoop of ice cream. And at other times it feels like letting go will leave a hole, and it’s gonna take some time for the new way of things to feel, well, less new.
But that’s to be expected, isn’t it? I mean, we mamas carry our kids for a long time.
We carry our babies in our bellies or in our hearts for months, maybe years.
And really, we carry them a heckuva lot longer than that.
After carrying my babies through morning (all day) sickness when I taught elementary school, my husband and I carried them home from the hospital into our tiny house on Waterford Drive, into their nursery decorated with a border-ribbon of barnyard animals.
We carried them from that bedroom to our tiny living room to the ivy-wallpapered kitchen a thousand times to calm, feed, and snuggle them.
We carried them from their first house with the shady maples in the midwest to the desert house with the dirt front yard out west.
We carried them in one way to Kindergarten and in another to high school and still more in all the years in-between.
And somewhere along the way, a shift happened as slow and sure as the change in seasons.
Yes, we’ve carried our kids to Christ. And absolutely, our kids have carried us to Christ as we’ve pleaded for parenting HELP. What’s more, they began to carry us toward their own personalities and desires and dreams. They carried us to a different way of seeing things we thought we knew for sure, back before we had kids.
God used them to carry us, to unfold in us all that needed to be built up and stripped away. From what I gather from my empty nester friends, this won’t ever stop as long as we’re logging miles on this earth.
In the meantime, we mamas won’t ever stop praying our hearts out for our kiddos.
We won’t stop being here for their weekends, their semester breaks, their favorite dinner, their place to catch up on sleep and the laundry.
We’ll have moments we cry from joy and heartache.
We’ll have moments we want to relay our wisdom when we need to be quiet.
We’ll have moments we want to be quiet when we need to speak up.
But through it all, we’ll continue to root for them and be their forever advocate.
And when they come back home, we might even put their cups in the dishwasher without complaining.
Yeah, we might be not-so ready for this new season, but that’s okay. Our kids are ready, and that will also carry us to graduation day and beyond.
So as we sit in the middle place between what has been and what will be, we’ll remember to be thankful we made it here right alongside our kids. We’ll be thankful that the Lord saw us to this day–a gift, a memory-marker, just the next step in God’s best for them, for us.
We carry sadness in one hand, but may it not overshadow the wonder in our other. Because no big change is ever the end of things.
God’s grace and goodness are.
Read my Prayer for the Mom of the Graduate here. (There’s a free gift for the graduate inside as well!)
And if you would like to further see how God wants to meet you within your uncertain season of change, consider reading Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions. It’s also a great gift for the teen kiddo off to college or the college graduate!