Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Reflections (from an Unexpected Mother)

I didn't expect to be a mother. It was just never in my plans. I was told in my adolescence that it was impossible, so I never set my mind on a baby in my arms.

My son is a gift of impossibility.

Larkin was born into a less than ideal environment. When his father and I divorced, Larkin and I struck out on our own. I never planned to be a single mother.

Our life has shown me that God's plans are higher plans than my own.

I could list a million ways that I berate myself for not being a better mother. I work, sometimes long hours. My sense of humor and snark has left its brand on my parenting style in the way that would cause a sancti-mommy to swoon. I make more sandwiches for dinner than I am willing to admit. I occasionally beg and plead for a babysitter with more desperation than is strictly socially acceptable.

I sometimes move bedtime up earlier just to preserve my sanity (this may or may not be accompanied with an exaggerated story about why the sun isn't in bed yet) and I frequently skip pages at story time (curse you and your 40 page long tongue twisters, Dr Seuss!). I'm not good at incorporating him into cooking dinner. I raise my voice too often, have too little patience, expect too much. I'm frequently out-hugged before he is out of hugs.

And yet there is much I'm proud of. The fact that I survived his first six months. The extended time I nursed him. The two years I spent at home with him. The way that he can hang his own laundry and clean his own bathroom. How polite he is. The hours I've spent reading to him, the nights in his colicky infancy that I wrapped him to my chest and walked the room quoting Shakespeare because my voice calmed him.

Even better are his qualities that I can take no credit for. Larkin is brilliant, witty, and fun. At four, he has a vocabulary and emotional IQ that exceeds many adults I know. Larkin is tender towards his friends when they are hurting and frets for babies who are crying in stores. He is all boy, rough and tumble and always out for adventure. He is clever and loves to learn. He says the sweetest prayers, not memorized but spontaneously and from the heart. When he sees a traffic accident, he immediately says a prayer for those injured and for the first responders.

He loves me deeply and purely, ignoring all the times and ways I've let him down, and still reaches for me with a whole and happy heart - and sometimes I realize... maybe I'm not doing such a bad job after all.

I live a life of undeserved grace and blessing.

The man I love is walking the land-mine territory of step parenting with grace and growth. John has taught me an encyclopedia about boys and their world. He has given my son the gifts of confidence, roughhousing, and an honorable male role model. He holds my hand in the trenches, listens to me rant and worry and babble, and he makes me laugh through the stress. I may have to kill him if Larkin holds up to his dream to be a "soldier and police officer, just like John" (my mother's heart trembles just at the thought of it), but I'm blessed to raise my son with him.

Together, we stand in the shadows of giants. The parents who raised us and taught us well now dote on Larkin. I learn daily from the friends who have walked before us, or the ones who walk much, much rockier roads than I can imagine.
I didn't expect to be a mother. I never planned to fall in love with a little boy who holds my heart and simultaneously makes me want to pull my hair out. But lord, how blessed am I that I have?
Dear Larkin,

If there is one thing I never expected about parenthood, it was the fact that I would share my life with a marvel. I look at you, child, and I can't even comprehend everything you are becoming. You have long shed any last trace of baby. You're built long and lean, with boundless energy and a mop of crazy hair that I can't seem to keep short enough to prevent it from standing straight up. Your eyes have gone from bright blue to grey, intense and expressive.

You are complex and complicated. Your teacher told me last week, "I've never met a kid that is SO COMPLETELY all boy, but also so sweet and sensitive. He will make an amazing husband some day!" You are equally likely to cuddle a baby doll in play as you are to break a stick into a gun shape and march around "BANG!"-ing until you get scolded. You are annoyingly literal yet also wildly imaginative. You love running through the outdoors, off-roading, and hiking - but a mosquito on the loose can unhinge you. A mama's child who loves to keep close and cuddle, yet also fiercely independent and adventurous in turn. Don't think this is a complaint. It makes parenting exhausting some days - I never know what will comfort or inspire you. But I see my own contradictions in you, and I feel proud that you are blazing your own path. Hold true to yourself, son. Don't temper any aspect of yourself to please others or make their lives easier.

You are a rock star at daycare. You love your teachers and classmates and I'm rendered speechless hearing you sing songs in Spanish and watching your tiny hands writing out letters in crayons and spelling your name. It seems impossible that the tiny baby I birthed just a few years ago has become the brightest child I've ever met.

You've handled huge transitions in the past few years. One family fell apart, another developed. You've welcomed a new "sister" - the sweetest German Shepard any boy could ask for. "But she's my best friend!" you hollered as you two were separated at nap time, "and I'm her boy!" John came into our lives, and after some jealousy, you've embraced him as your ninja master, "your" John.

When I sing you the lullaby I've sang since you were in my tummy, I smile when I get to the line - "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". Who knew when I first hummed the John Lennon tune to you, long before I'd even laid eyes on you, how accurate the phrase would be in our crazy little lives?

Our life has not gone as I expected these past years since I last wrote you a letter here. But I hope that you reflect on these early years of your life, and see how the hand of God moves through our lives in beautiful, unexpected ways, to work everything according to His plan.

I love you.

To the moon and back,