Trying Not to Freak Out Over My Baby Growing Up

Once, when our firstborn was an infant–just weeks old and snuggled into a forest green velour sleeper embellished with red and white Christmas decals–he was asleep in my brother-in-law’s arms. My brother-in-law, whose eldest children were teenagers at the time, stared into my tiny child’s face and said, “I can’t remember my son being this small.” I was horrified.

After 32 weeks of a tumultuous pregnancy involving two extended hospital stays, weeks of bed rest and near constant fetal monitoring until the forces of maternal nature could no longer be blunted, there was a disquieting birth. And my tiny child was whisked away to the neo-natal intensive care unit where he stayed until his little baby body got into the habit of regular breathing.

IMG_2511I cherished every second spent holding my newborn child, my gift and blessing, so fragile yet resilient, my joy. I could not fathom how any parent could forget. So whenever our baby would wake in the night, I’d rock him in the dark and sing to him–old hymns or Stevie Nicks songs–anything I knew by heart. And I would close my eyes and resolve to commit each moment to memory. I never wanted to forget.

Yet, like the lyrics to After the Glitter Fades, only bits and pieces of my son’s infancy seem to remain a part of my brain’s permanent record. Like my brother-in-law, I gaze upon our now 15-year-old son and can hardly recall him once being so tiny.

I have made every effort to be the best mother I can be. I am not perfect. None of us are.

Older women would tell me how it all goes so fast. But when our kids were in diapers and didn’t always sleep through the night or allow me five seconds alone in the bathroom, I would wonder, “WHEN is it going to go faster?!”

DSC00428_0070And then, after years of wooden trains and Legos, superhero costumes and storybooks, I stepped through a time warp. Now I have to reach up to hug my son, who was once a 5 lb. completely dependent baby boy. I’ve tried so hard to hold on and not forget, that now I have no idea how to begin letting go.

DSCN1565Other mothers tell of how they cried on their child’s first day of kindergarten. I didn’t shed a single tear that day. I was relieved whenever our son showed signs of being able to navigate the world on his own. Milestone after milestone always brought a sigh of relief; we were doing something right. The kid was going to be okay. But wait…

He is now a freshman in high school and we (probably) only have four years left before he launches into the world for more than just a day. So I promised myself I’d speak affirmation to him every single day until he leaves for college. But then, he aggravated me, like all teenagers often do to their mothers. I don’t remember what he did, probably left wet laundry in the washing machine, something trivial but maddening, and I went all loose canon bitchy mom in need of wine or hormone injections. I’d blown my affirmation pledge after a single day. And unlike when he was tiny, I don’t have much time left to make everything right. It’s all going so damned fast!

And now, those tears I didn’t shed when he was a kindergartner come regularly. I cry whenever I consider the mistakes I may have made as a parent. And I well up as I struggle over how to best parent a man-boy who wants to travel across the country on a summer mission trip but can’t find his socks. Is he going to be okay? Am I going to be okay?

I remember being pregnant and frustrated that my pregnancy wasn’t going smoothly. I asked my doctor, “WHEN will I stop worrying and enjoy this?”

She told me the awful truth, that I would never stop worrying but that there also would be joy. Admittedly, I worry less. I’ve gone from checking on an infant every five minutes to make sure he’s breathing to trying to envision a future with grown children. I remind myself to breathe. There is definitely joy. So much joy. And yet, I haven’t been this emotional since giving birth. Just like no one can describe the crazy mix of emotions involved in becoming a new parent, no one could have prepared me for what I’m feeling at this stage of life. It once seemed so far off, and now here I am with growing boys ever closer to being grown up. I hope to remember most of it.

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A Reason to Celebrate

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Our oldest son confirmed his Christian faith last weekend along with a group of thirty-some other ninth graders. Confirmation is not a path to salvation and is by no means a requirement to being a Christian. But these kids have been on a 2 ½ year journey together. A journey that at its core is a weekly foundational religion class but also so much more.

Confirmation may be familiar to some. Here on the tundra, many folks my age and older have memories of relatives traveling countless miles to congratulate this “achievement” and deliver a gift of religious meaning or cash, which most teens still appreciate.

Since I did not grow up in the Lutheran tradition, I was unsure how to properly celebrate this rite of passage. I asked around. It seems an open house with time-honored selections of buttered buns and casseroles are typical. But like many other religious traditions, the traditional confirmation party is fading in popularity.

I considered following the lower-key crowd, opting for a dinner out with just our immediate family and the grandparents. But that felt like minimizing the importance of what we want faith to be in our son’s life. A dinner out at our son’s favorite restaurant, which vacillates between the culinary mediocrity of Dairy Queen and Applebee’s, would be no different than what we do to celebrate his birthday or a random Friday night when I don’t feel like cooking.

Heck, high school sports teams have celebratory banquets at the end of every season, even less than stellar seasons. Rah, rah, some of you tried hard. Good for you!

And most high school graduates have catered parties even though attending school is the law for minors, and in most cases, obtaining a high school diploma should probably be the very minimum standard we set for our children.

So I opted to travel the old-fashioned route; a confirmation open house with abundant food and a sheet cake. Although I did use electronic invitations. Consider that my nod to current convention and admittedly, my own laziness.

DSCN1883Getting ready to host a party for 40+ people was a lot of work. My mother watched wide-eyed as I scurried around, setting out chairs and bowls of nuts, made several trips to the grocery store and chopped veggies and sliced cheese for what seemed like days. It was indeed all a bit exhausting. BUT, worth every bit of effort and here’s why…

  • It is my prayer that our son will cherish his relationship with God, lean on Him in times of trial and trust in His goodness throughout life. A memorable celebration conveys the significance of this hope.
  • Religion class can seem tedious and time consuming in a teen’s 21st century hyper-busy life. But if we’re going to hand out participation trophies for the most minor of life’s activities, a larger celebration for staying committed to something as vital as faith development is certainly in order. (BTW, our kids see our efforts to get them to certain activities and out of others, thus internalizing what we deem important. Just sayin’.)
  • People need community. We need to know we’re not alone, that we are supported by fellow believers as we attempt to live a daily life modeled after Christ the redeemer. Our son experienced a house full of people, all here for him, and all essentially saying, “We believe as you believe and we are your family committed to helping you walk in the way of truth, not just at church on Sunday mornings and during religion class, but all the time. We love you as Christ loves you and we’re in this together.”

DSCN1873I’m thinking we should celebrate that last point even more regularly. You are loved and that is something to celebrate!

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