My oldest son is my mini-me. (Poor child.) He is nerdy and passionate. Sensitive and serious. Fun-loving and kind. He loves baseball and music. He has crooked arms with the little bumps on the back them and knobby knees. He has long legs and a contagious smile. Even to strangers, he is undeniably my son. He is a momma’s boy, too. And honestly, I’m just as smitten and obsessed with him.
My mini-me–my heart–my baby–is starting kindergarten next week.
And I am devastated.
To be honest, I have always been a pretty tough mom. I’m the type of mom who will force her kids on the ride at the amusement park no matter how much they cry because I know in the end they need to experience the world and learn to push through fear (and I know they will end up loving it). When my child falls, I’m the mom who stays in her seat, looking up long enough to say, “Get back up! You are fine!” when I don’t see any broken bones and promptly returns to whatever I was working on. Trust me, my kids are cuddled and babied and spoiled plenty, but most of the time, I believe my sons should be thrown into the fire, so to speak, and left to experience the world head on without me constantly holding their hands.
On Wednesday, my five-year-old will get on a school bus and ride to his elementary school for his first day of kindergarten. He will enter a classroom with 20 other kids he has never met before, kids who come from a variety of backgrounds and value systems, kids who may already have friends or adults in the building who know and love them. He will learn from a woman who doesn’t know him–doesn’t know his strengths, his struggles, his talents, his fears, his hurts, his dreams–and in the coming year he will spend more hours of his day interacting with her than he will me.
He is starting a season of life that will undoubtedly include heartbreak, disappointment, ridicule, and uncertainty. Life is hard. And my baby is beginning the part of life where he learns this unfortunate truth. And it kills me to let him go.
I knew this day was inevitable, but it was always someday. Not today. How is it already time for this?
And so, I am mentally shuffling through the box of memories I have with my son that is stored away in my heart. I see the light in his eyes at his third birthday party when we sang happy birthday to him and he sang along. I hear the moments he has randomly looked up at me and said, “You are the best mommy ever.” I feel the tears I wiped away during all of the battles he faced with his ears at Vanderbilt. I smell the Aveeno lotion I have covered him in since birth.
These are the moments I savor.
But I also remember the moments I breathed a sigh of relief when my mother came to pick him up and let him stay with her for the weekend. I think about the times he has asked me to take him outside, and I said no because in that moment the work I was entranced by was more important than the time spent playing meaningfully with my son. I see the bitemarks and bruises on his arms during the rough transition his younger brother had when he first came from Thailand and my heart breaks all over again when I picture the look in my oldest’s eyes as he realized he had to share his mommy and daddy with someone who hated him. I think about the times I didn’t take him to church on Sunday mornings or the moments we listened to Taylor Swift sing about relationships instead of worship that could nourish his soul. I remember all the nights I let him lay his head on his pillow without praying with him and all the nights I laid my head on my pillow without praying for him.
I am overcome with grief and regret because in this momentI realize that what truly hurts is not the fact that I need more time with him. It is the harsh realization that I didn’t use the time that I did have with him to the fullest. There is still so much to teach him before he enters this phase of his life, I think. So much more love to give. So many more games to play. So many more life lessons to teach. So many more prayers to be sent up. He isn’t ready. I am not ready.
And there is nothing I can do to get that time back. Nothing.
But then, I remember that soft voice that whispered truth to me the night I thought I had lost my son after carrying him in my womb and next to my heart for only eight weeks. After suffering a tear in my uterus only a few days after we found out that I was pregnant, my son’s life hung in the balance. A tear in the uterus is actually common, but mine was abnormally large. I had lost a lot of blood and my doctor prepared me for miscarriage. In my bathroom floor, as I lay lifeless in a pool of tears, I cried out to God. “Don’t take my baby. Lord, please don’t take my baby away from me.”
And in my moment of desperation and hopelessness, I heard the Lord say in my heart, “He is not your baby. He is mine.”
I realized then and there that my son is not my son. He is God’s. The love I have for my son is immeasurable. Even when he was the size of a pea in my stomach, I loved him so fiercely it would take me breath just thinking about living life as his mother. But the reality is, being a mother is a job with which I have been entrusted–not an accomplishment I have earned or a prize I deserve.
My oldest is the son of the God Most High. He was created in the Lord’s image and exists for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. I am simply his caretaker on Earth. While this is still an enormous responsibility that no parent should take lightly, the fact is that ultimately, the One who created my son is the only one who can save my son. The only one who can truly protect my son.
As much as I love Maddux, which is like so much my heart could just explode right now thinking about it, his Heavenly Father loves him even more. I have fallen short as a mother in so many ways, but God knew I would. He saw my shortcomings long before they impacted my son, and–here is the incredible part–he was loving and preparing my son to thrive and be blessed in spite of those shortcomings.
On Wednesday when my son walks into his kindergarten classroom, I have to remember that even though I must let go of his hand and watch him walk away from me into this new world, he is not walking alone. His Father will be with Him. Beside of Him. Inside of Him. Preparing his heart for the tough times, replenishing his joy after the letdowns, renewing his mind in spite of the negativity he will hear, and loving him even more fiercely than his mommy ever could.
I have so much regret as I say goodbye to the “baby years.”There are so many ways I have fallen short. But thankfully God is good and powerful despite my mistakes, and He has done and will continue to do a mighty work in the life of my little boy. I don’t know why God entrusted me to care for the blessing that we call Maddux Chase, but he did. And while I can’t change the past or shield him from the future, I can trust that God’s promises are true. So when He said he can turn all things into good for His children, I can believe that and let go of my guilt. And when He says He will never leave us, I can be confident that Maddux is never alone to fend for himself. And when He says He is the source of comfort and joy, I can rest in that truth on Wednesday.
But that still doesn’t mean I won’t be wearing waterproof mascara.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Jones and Shelley Portugal (both in Bowling Green, KY)