It has happened. That day that I swore I would never be able to handle. She turned 18. My first-born is an adult. All of those years ago, they handed her to me and I vividly remember telling her that I would never let her go. I would never let her ride in someone else’s car or go to summer camp. I couldn’t imagine myself having the courage or the faith to let this human being be dependent on another – not even dependent on God over me.
I am so thankful that God didn’t leave me there as the younger woman in that birthing room. He has faithfully held my hand and prepared me to let go little by little during each stage of growth and maturity. He has given me growth spurts and yes sometimes they do hurt. I have lived my season as a mother, striving to not have regrets. Do I believe that I always get it all right as a mother? No, but I do think that I did some things right. When asked, both of my teenagers have told me that my parenting was ruled by grace and not by justice. There is a balance though and I thought that I would like to share some of the highlights with you.
I was a little older when my first was born – 34 to be exact. One of the ideas that drove my mothering style was that I never wanted to have a child run home. For this reason, I worked to get my children into their own crib as soon as possible and then sleeping through the night. I disciplined myself to wake them up each morning at the same time, put them down for naps (always at home) at the same time and they had a regular bedtime routine and bedtime. They had regular meal times as well. I minimized dragging them around to do errands. Now, on the surface, this may look like a child run home to you but a schedule benefited our family in many ways. My husband and I did not have cranky children when we did have them out in public and therefore enjoyed our time together. We regularly received positive comments in public on our children’s behavior. We still do by the way. Probably, most beneficial has been the alone time that this schedule granted to our marriage which helped us weather the storms. This “littles” schedule laid the groundwork for two self-disciplined high achieving young adults.
Another area that I believe that I got it right was in keeping my younger children off of the intense fantasy movies, books and video games. Believe me, we have been criticized and mocked. My personal conviction was to limit their exposure until they had the maturity in their minds to handle it and understand that this is not reality. Now they are free to watch, read and play these and enjoy them but they don’t have nightmares and they understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
Finally and this is the most difficult and important. Follow through with discipline. Don’t issue threats without the intentions or backbone to follow through. Yes, it does hurt us more than it hurts them but if you don’t follow through now, you and your child will pay the price later and it will be monumental.
This post would not be complete without my confessions of where I believe that I got it wrong. First, I didn’t always make feeding my soul a priority. Many days, I chose to or was forced to jump right in on my day and I neglected my spiritual hunger. Second, I went years without eating right, exercising and sleeping enough. Thirdly, I did not “stop to smell the roses” enough. Live life while you are raising children. Enjoy them and all of the other people and aspects of your life.
Motherhood can sometimes feel like you’re on a hamster wheel but we really do have control. It is a season and you and your children do not have to accomplish everything at the same time. Cut back and slow down and enjoy these wonderful human beings because that 18th birthday comes awfully fast.