Last night I had to make myself get up out of a deep sleep and walk around to shake off a bad dream. It was in the ‘losing your children’ category. For some reason I was in Rockford, IL, with my children, and I managed to lose all of them during a fire. I was barefoot and had no money; I was searching the city, trying to sneak on busses so I could cover more ground. Since I am not the hovering, clutch-my-chicks-in-the-nest kind of mom, this dream was a bit surprising. (Last week, my son Caleb announced excitedly that he thought of a great name for ‘my club’: MMUI, for Mean Moms Unite International. Now, as my children are doing dishes, folding their own laundry, making their school lunches, or humming themselves to sleep at 7:00 PM, they have a nice new theme song to sing.)
Back to the dream. The ‘losing my kids’ dream. I do have a graduating senior for the first time, though definitely not the last. I truly thought I would not be one of those whining moms, their reason for existence gone when their firstborn leaves. Maybe in another dream—or in real life—I can’t remember—there were five baby birds in a nest, but one of them kept growing and growing, eating all the food supply and suffocating the others, squawking loudly and getting all the attention. If you belong to MMUI (Mean Moms Unite International), you quickly get the picture that Big Bird needs the boot. Thankfully, God sees the whole picture, and He preordained a four-year high school incubator so that our teenagers, totally ready to face the big bad world, can set out more or less on their own at 18—whether we are ready or not.
I feel ready, but I still get shivers at odd times: when my eldest asks where we keep the butter, leaves without a coat in the winter, saves his laundry up for a month, or cannot keep track of his locker key. I wonder how we could be so naive as to think we have adequately prepared him. The ‘thud’ comes at various times, usually when I am trying to sleep, and I gasp, “His youthful immaturity and (of course) ultimate failure is all MY fault—how could I have been so blind!” Unfortunately, bird nests do not come equipped with bungee cords so we can rope our chicks back in and finish our undone parenting job. It is time for them to fly. I know.
I guess it all boils down to this: I love him, I will miss him, and it will never be the same again. He will not be here to put his arm around me while we walk through Budapest; he won’t come up behind me and give me a back rub with his strong man hands; he will not be here to ask me to lie on his bed and talk and pray, or to sing trios with his dad and me. He will not be here to make fun of me, to compliment me, to ask my opinion, to make sure I will be at his basketball game, to beg for mercy when he forgets his lunch. (An MMUI mom would say, “Suffer, kid!”) His bigger-than-life exuberance, his catchy enthusiasm, his love of life will not be in our house in quite the same way.
In return, we will have more grocery money, an empty bedroom (for about five minutes!), fewer ‘tall as trees’ guys hanging around, less rowdy screaming-girl noises as they fly through the air on the end of his arms. Our eyes can rest from seeing polyester plaid pants with Boy Scout shirts. Our ears will not hear his band practicing. Our mouths won’t yell, “Yippee! Ben is home!” Our noses…well, we won’t go there. But these are sweet assaults on our senses that will make us long for him all that much more when he is not with us.
How will our family gracefully weather the huge emptiness of ‘one of us’ leaving? We laugh now; we take every moment to enjoy each other, say the words, or not say the words; we reach out, apologize, touch; we look and really see; we wait; we hush up; we help; we are there. With all we have, we wish him every good thing. We stop and give Ben up to God yet again. He is in the palm of God’s hand. He has a future and a hope. It is a new beginning, a reason to celebrate. We love him dearly, but he is not ours—he never was. He belongs to Jesus and always will. It is time to fly, big guy.