How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?
How did you feel?
Maybe you felt…
CONFUSED. You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do. Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known. Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened? Why oh why?” I don’t blame you. I would feel the same way.
Maybe you felt…
ANGRY. I know you did because you bit me, at least three times. I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later. You know what? I would bite me too. Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT! SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”
Maybe you felt…
OUT-OF-CONTROL. After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever. All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits. Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least. When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.
Maybe you felt…
AFRAID. Who wouldn’t? I sure would. Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up? Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away? Would your ant family be okay with this new normal? Would you be able to find another rock?
Maybe you felt…
SAD. Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with. It’s just horrible, my little ant friend. Just horrible. It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this. I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.
Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures. Yes. I bet it will happen soon enough.
But for now, my new found friend, I get it. I get you.
I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.
I angrily pleaded, shouting in my mind, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME ANYWAY?
His gentle answer surprised me.
You have it all wrong, backwards in fact. It’s the question I’ve been waiting to ask you. What do YOU want from ME? What do YOU need? As a mom? As a wife? As a friend? As a woman? As a human? What do YOU need today?
Really, Jesus? Really? Cause I have a whole list. You ready?
I’m tired. Tired of holding it together. Tired of the extra work. Tired of the mental load. I NEED STRENGTH.
I’m confused. Not sure what to do in this new normal I find myself in. I NEED WISDOM.
I’m irritable. Emotions flying off the wall and out of my mouth. Cranky. I NEED PATIENCE.
I’m sad. Sad that so much good has been taken away. I’m really sad. I NEED JOY.
I’m afraid. It’s scary out there and even here in my own head. I NEED PEACE.
I’m discouraged. Everywhere I turn, it seems like bad news is being shouted loudly. I NEED HOPE.
This time around, His gentle answer did NOT surprise me, because it’s been buried deep in my heart for SO long, just waiting to emerge.
I’ve got all of this IN SPADES for you. Truth be told, I AM ALL OF THIS.
I am STRENGTH. I am WISDOM. I am PATIENCE. I am JOY. I am PEACE. I am HOPE.
There is plenty of ME to go around. I will give YOU all that YOU need today, because what YOU really need is ME.
Meet Susan Bernstein! She is a wife to Eddie (married over 20 years), mom to three growing, young men (Brandon, Blake and Jordan) and a kind friend. Susan is a dog-lover, a very organized stay-at-home mom (she jokes that she spends half her life at the grocery store), an amateur photographer and an aspiring writer! Susan is loving, smart and brave. THIS WILL BE A HUGE TREAT FOR YOU PARENTS OUT THERE (no matter what your age and stage)! I hope you enjoy!
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” (Denis Waitley)
I would suspect most people don’t cry when looking through a Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogue. Last night however, I found myself doing just that. As I studied the various organizational and space-saving items they sell to help one fit their belongings into a 14 x 14 foot dorm room, the tears just started flowing. I couldn’t believe that in one short month, I’d be packing my oldest son up for college. My mothering mind wondered if he’d have everything he needed, but deep down I wasn’t too worried about shower caddies or desk lamps. My concern was more for friends, support, and wisdom…things they didn’t sell in that catalogue.
My husband noticed my tears and came over to hug me.
“You ok?” he asked me for probably the millionth time this year.
“Yeah.” I exhaled and sighed.
“It’s not that I’m upset about him leaving,” a fresh sob forming in my throat, “It’s just that he’s never coming back.” And the floodgates erupted once more.
It hits me at odd times that our family of five will never again permanently reside under the same roof. I beamed proudly during his graduation ceremony without shedding a tear. However, I had to pull myself together in the aisle of the Hallmark store as I shopped for a card and gift just days prior. I choked back the tears as I chose Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go, realizing he was about to begin a new phase of life, and it wouldn’t include us.
I knew in my heart the day would come. I mean, isn’t this what we plan for as parents all along? None of us have children and secretly hope that they’ll live with us when they are 40, right? The fact that they leave means we actually did something right as a parent! We raised a child strong and independent enough to survive on his own! Isn’t that the whole point of this parenting thing? We spent untold hours teaching them the value of hard work, integrity, and the need for sunblock. We had heart-to-hearts about taking the high road when betrayed by friends. We battled fears, real and imagined, late into the night, and steadied their shaky steps when they entered the unknown territory of a new school, team, or social circle. All the pep talks, time outs, chore charts, and consequences have paved the way to this moment. Leaving might actually be the Super Bowl event of parenthood, a time to fold our arms and smugly proclaim, “I rocked this parenting thing out of the park!”
Not exactly. Yes, he’s a capable, intelligent and (somewhat) responsible young man. He drives and makes decisions and can even vote or join the army if he wants to. But is he ready? I remember asking the same question when I left him at preschool a blink of an eye ago. He cried and cried for me, and I was sure I was doing him irreparable harm by leaving. It’s funny, because my heart hurts in the same way now. Except he isn’t crying anymore. He’s on Facebook meeting incoming classmates and looking for a roommate. So, he probably is ready. But am I?
Parenting seems to be the most selfless profession out there. After you’ve done all you can to love, nurture and raise this tiny little person, you need to let them go. As a child, my son believed everything I told him. Now, he forms his own opinions, and he is influenced by a myriad of voices over which I have no control. Our children aren’t mini-clones or younger versions of ourselves. They actually have their own unique identity. They will think and believe and do what they decide, and we are now on the sidelines, watching. We silently cheer them on and pray constantly that they will have victory. We are most definitely now on the bleachers watching their game of life, rather than next to them in the huddle.
As I prepare to release my son into the world, I will shop for all the things he needs for his new “home.” I will buy fluffy towels and warm blankets, plenty of Command hooks and microwave popcorn. He will leave packed up with all the essentials, including 18 years worth of unconditional love. I will watch with wonder, excitement, and a fair amount of sadness, as he leaves us behind and begins his life. He has a story to write, and he will write it his own way, on his own terms. I will always be a part of that story, but just one part, the one loving him from afar and praying that God protect him and put good, loving people in his life. And I suspect, for a few years at least, I’ll be the one helping to pack and organize him at Bed Bath and Beyond.
How great was that?! I just want to thank Susan for sharing her heart with each of us! If you are interested in reading other parenting blog posts by me, the Dolly Mama, click on the links below: