Do you ever feel your life should have a sign in front of it? Seriously, I sometimes feel like a “Caution: Children Texting” sign needs to be invested in at our home or how about “Leaving Normal” for right outside the driveway? If we had road signs available for all of life’s exists, they would be pretty much something like this: New Life, Old Life, Success, Failure, Right Way, Wrong Way, Changes, Choices, Decisions and Oops! Wow, I’m out of breath just thinking about all of those road signs. Moment of truth: Life with kids can feel beyond navigation sometimes. Personally, my road sign needs to say: “Welcome to My Life, Viewer Discretion Advised”.
The truth is I have exited an off ramp in my life and I am now entering a totally unknown, very much “are we there yet”, “do I have to”, and “you expect me to go where?” kind of on ramp. Seriously, the signs are a bit fuzzy if you ask me. I don't want to say it, nope, I don’t even want to have to admit it or accept this new place in my life, after all it’s a bit dark and scary, but the truth is I am the mother of two, yes count it out, one, two, teenage boys. Life on a daily basis is a roller coaster ride; hitting the highs and the lows sometimes at the same time but truthfully they usually loop DE loop simultaneously and at times leave me stuck, hanging upside down. Swinging from the rafters is not just a catch phrase anymore; it's a way of life. The day is continually packed with needs (Mom, I need lunch money) wants (Mom, I need, insert the word want here, headphones) and yes my all-time favorite, hunger (Mom, what's to eat? I'm, hungry). Life never stops and honestly I wouldn't want it any other way but as we cruise blindly into the teenage years I sometimes wonder how my own parents made it through the winding, crazy and twisting road of raising a headstrong teenage girl.
Raising boys can feel like a daily Wipe Out challenge, on the outside they can seem very different from the teenage girl and in truth boys are made up very differently from girls. Boys grunt, girls weep, boys want to brood and girls want to talk it out. Either way they tend to crash and burn, and as parents it’s not easy trying to balance the Hormone Mountains and valley’s alongside of both the emotional and physical changes happening all at once is it? I feel most days I’m running a boot camp and to my kid’s dismay (and my own) I play the role of a drill sergeant. Yet at the end of the day, the truth is boys are not so different from girls, in the sense that we have to unscramble the language and the back roads of youth together. As a mother of boys I have not had the pleasure (Lord help those who have) of dealing with bras, the issue of womanhood and navigating fashion ups and downs. But as a mother of boys I have had to deal with the blows of bullies, low punches, hormones ( just of a different beast), embarrassing high waters due to rapid growth rate, B.O. was a fun side show and the sometimes migraine inducing drama girls continually bring into their tender lives. Now that's not to say my boys have not had their own drama but man there is nothing like the mean girls of today. We've already dealt with our share of dramas, broken hearts and yes even our very own teenage stalker; broadcasting to the world she had put eyes and ears on him. Really, where was the detour sign for that one? I sometimes wonder if this mama bear will ever come out the other end of what seems to be a very long, narrow tunnel. Breast cancer could have never prepared me for the likes of high school musical gone sideways and turned upside down in the modern age! Seriously hair loss and chemo have nothing on zits and social networking in the teenage world!
As keyed up as living with a teen is, life as a teenager must be just as frustrating having to listen and acknowledge mom giving directions, instructions, you know how we nag about homework, putting a belt on, clean shirts, fussing over that new leg hair or hugging and kissing them in front of their friends. I will admit to all of the above! I have no shame, I love my kiddos but I also realize they are truly growing up and are more than on their way to becoming grown men than staying little boys. I know I am one of those mothers most roll their eyes at, somewhere between helicopter pilot and army sergeant. Our home is always open to the boy’s friends; I will feed an army of teens before I send them off to belt out a song and dance at the local high school musical review. From my point of view as a mom, if our home is open, then I am aware who is who and what my kids are up too instead of banging around in the dark. Yet for all my hovering I have always stood back when needed and allowed my boys to take those first steps on their own, to experience accomplishment and the joy of succeeding. Here’s the catch, it's still not so easy allowing them to fight their own battles is it? Heartache is not easy to watch, to allow, but our kids need to experience all of life's ups and downs. Knowing they are entering into the ring with only our love and the knowledge we have strived so hard to impart to them, understanding they are ready to take on the world is downright scary, a real pant wetting moment if we are going to be completely honest here. Letting our kids take the wheel for the first time doesn't mean we don't sit in the dreaded shotgun seat shaking from head to toe with our hands over our eyes, peaking at their progress through slightly open fingers does it? We willingly, strap our seat belt, sit beside them and try to offer our love and support. Once our children reach their destination, as parents we have to take more than one deep breath and find our seat, knowing we have prepared them to take whatever the fight is, on. We can rally, we can shout , we can have the water and pep talk in hand as long as they see us as the coach, not the challenger, sitting in the corner, behind the ropes of whatever boxing match they have landed themselves in. Surviving the teenage years as a parent means you are hands on, lacing up the gloves, never out of touch but it also requires us, as painful as it is, to allow our children to make their own way. Watching our children suffer, fail at something, lose a friend, or have a girl (from a boys perspective) dice them up like crushed tomatoes can be excruciating, but then something very interesting happens: they find their stride, they realize they actually have legs underneath them and just as you feel your kids have fallen into the deep, our kids rise up stronger for the scars.
Our children, really do endure, with a firm belief in the Lord above, fixed on leading the way through the darkness, secure in who they are, warriors on the front line, unafraid, steady, tenacious while answering the call to honesty, integrity and courage, all while standing up for what they believe in and it’s really quite amazing to see. As the drama's rage all around them, as the show goes on, curtains fall, as friends fall to slander, gossip, back stabbing and bad choices our kids unmistakably surprise us by simply choosing to do the right thing in a bloodthirsty, callous, cold, ferocious, insensitive, ruthless, vicious and yes savage high school musical for the real world!
I look at my boys now, knowing they are well on their way to becoming men and I am struck by how strong they really are! I spent so much of my time worrying over them as babies, concerned what breast cancer was inflicting on their souls, but now standing here, where we are today I can see the Tango with cancer and the struggle with the enemy was not all a bad thing. The beast came for us all, she crawled at our backs, took our certainty and tried her best to take us down, to destroy and brutally tear us apart. But, and here’s the wonderful part, despite all her chaotic shenanigans God took our brokenness and molded our boys into beautiful young men after His own heart. Even in the midst of the thunder and lightning our boys have become strong, bold, courageous men and it's amazing to behold and gaze upon. God heard my cries, He heard my prayers, as a mother down on her knees, pleading for my children and even as the enemy has come, like a creeper in one of Micah's Minecraft games, the antics of the teenage years have not torn down the fortress we have built side by side, instead these trials have only made our foundation together stronger.
Sure we have our moments of craziness, when the boys seem unfocused, when I am more like crouching tiger rather than easy going let’s bounce around Tigger. There is no How- To- Instructional handbook when it comes to raising boys. Honestly day to day is more like learning what not to do by means of a failed attempt back roads recipe. As a mom I am always on the lookout, to my boy’s dismay maybe a bit too vigilant, sometimes over protective and wary, watchful, keeping a close eye on my little ducklings. Being a mom isn't easy and there is such a fine line as mom's to constantly define between fostering our kids and suffocating them. As a mom of two teenage boys I am finding I have to let go more and more than I have ever done in the past. I long to hold them as I did, when they were babies, to kiss their cheeks and debate crayons VS markers. No, those days are not completely lost, we still talk about their days, girls and I do get hugs and even a kiss but honestly more and more I find myself listening, ministering, and when they let me, nurturing more than my old role as protector, tending for their every need or watching over them on the playground.
The truth is I can't ignore my boys are growing up, have you seen them lately? Both tower over me for goodness sake. Joshua is a good 6ft tall these days and still growing. I will gladly admit I am not ready for the young women who steadily bid to steal my son's heart from me on a daily basis nor am I ready to accept both boys will be driving soon, but I can't hold back the hand of time. All I can do is guide and direct my sons, pray for them steadfastly and trust they will live a life on their knees with lifted hands to the One who loves them even more than I do. My prayer as a mom is to see them rise up with gentleness and strength, and grow into the amazing men I already see cultivated inside of their hearts. I can try but no matter how hard I protest, scream and yell I have to allow my boys to experience heartache, and in doing so my children will learn to take up their own armor. Ah, the horrors of this high school musical they’ve been cast in, and the teenage years ahead of us, yep they are despicable but when I stand back I can see the pains of this chorus line will honestly bring joy and a sure footing our kids need to become adults. Even when we want to drag them back to the playground, the truth is the whole world is ready and waiting on them to make their entrance and we must as parents to be able to let go, to give them the green light, approve and support our kids as they take their first steps as young adults. It doesn't mean we always agree, and though we may seriously want to prevent or veto their decisions we can't hold back the floodgates forever. I can tell you being the mom I am, my kids will always know when I disagree but the one thing I can tell you is true and I will shout from the rooftops: I will always be there for my boys, ready to catch them, routing for their success.
As temping as it is we can chart out our kids’ lives all we want, we can even put up all the signs on the highway of life we want pointing to problems, defeat and success but the truth is what makes our children’s lives memorable VS average is all in how we let go, allowing our children to navigate their own life road map at the right time, putting up and taking down signs as needed. Sure the road ahead may be full of things spelling out disaster with narrow winding roads but the truth is we know deep down no matter what road our boys and girls take they are certainly going to hit some pretty big bumps along the way. There’s no avoiding them, so my goal as a mom is not to over direct, nor to under direct, no my goal is to inspire my children to experience life with all its pains, bruises and scars. I don’t want my children to witness me along side of the road digging in, standing by a sign that reads, “Caution: life approaching next 70-80 years. Nope what I really want, what I pray every day for my boys is they see the sign just ahead in big letters reading, “Destiny; life ahead”.