It's been a rough 24 hours in my mothering universe. As I type these words I am humbled and grateful for a son's forgiving heart and relying on God's mercy to do better the next time.
It all started when my son got his grades for this past semester. A's, B's and a C he was so stinkin thrilled to have in this one class. It had kicked his butt from the beginning and he was just so happy to survive the experience. He was satisfied, pleased he had done his best.
My response..."Well son do your really think that's going to get it done. You know what you need to transfer. Are these grades going to be enough? Maybe if you had spent more time studying and less time socializing you might have straight A's."
His face fell. He tensed his shoulders and huffed "Seriously Mom, when will I ever be good enough for you? When will I ever hear "Good job Jonathan. Nicely done." Instead it's all about doing better, working harder. I worked really hard for these grades Mom and it's still not enough for you."
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Was I really that mother? Did I really respond negatively every single time? I didn't have a comeback. I just stood there with my mouth open like a guppy.
He walked away with his head down.
In that moment I just wanted to shout out how proud I was of him and how much I loved him. But instead I stood there wondering if he was right. If he was...how would I fix it?
He had looked to me for approval and encouragement and I had answered with judgement. Anyone who tells you this mothering thing gets easier when your children are in college is lying. It's a cacophony of emotions as you try to navigate between letting go and stepping in. It's confusing as hell for me and I find I am often at a loss for what to do.
I wanted desperately in that moment to be that mother. You know the one. The one that smiles and is always encouraging. The one that doesn't lose her temper but holds it until she has heard the whole story. The one that celebrates their child's unique personality instead of hiding their head every time that individuality is expressed. I have always wanted to be the mother that gives support and bolsters confidence. Hugs first then quietly corrects with restraint.
Well in case you haven't figured it out I am not that mother. And yesterday it showed. Now that I have had time to think about things, to pray about the situation I have realized that my son has a valid point.
It's funny, with Courtney I have no choice but to stay in the moment because I don't know what's going to happen next. With Jonathan I am always looking to the future. What needs to happen? How things can be better? What lesson has been learned?
Why? Why did it have to be that way? Why in the 21 years I have been a mother couldn't I love them the same.
I am not talking about the amount of love, that has never been in question. I am talking about the practical application of day to day parenting. Of encouraging and disciplining. Of celebrating each and every accomplishment honoring the hard work they have done no matter the result. I resolved in that moment to make things right. To make sure he knew how much I loved him and how proud I was of him.
He had worked hard and he needed to know his mother was proud of him right now in this moment! He was and always would be good enough for his momma!
I found a quiet moment last night and asked to speak with him. We sat down and talked like two adults. I told him how much I loved him, how proud I was of him. He didn't have to do anything to earn my love, he had it no matter what, ups downs and all arounds.
I talked about how hard it was for me, his transition into adulthood. How sometimes I looked his way and saw a ten year old little boy building some new Lego creation not a 6'2" bear of a man who couldn't wait to conquer the world.
In that moment, I was that mother. The mother who knew her son was going places and couldn't wait to see what fabulous things were to come his way. I asked forgiveness for judging instead of encouraging. I apologized for making him feel "small".
Then something wonderful happened. My son looked at me and said "I'll love you forever I'll like you for always as long as I'm living my Mom you'll be."
I laughed as the tears rolled down my face. This awesome young man had just quoted one of our favorite children's stories, "I'll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. I had read that wonderful to him every night for years when he was little. He remembered those nights when his Dad was sailing somewhere in the Med in defense of his country, and he and I would curl up and read for hours. I loved those times and apparently so did he.
In response I hugged him and whispered "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be."