Remember in Proverbs 30: 19 that poetic verse about seemingly commonplace moments that are actually marvels beyond comprehension? They include: “the way of an eagle in the sky, a snake on a rock, a ship on the sea, and the way of man with a maiden.”
Well, I’m adding one more to the list of bafflers: the way of a mother planning her child’s graduation open house.
You've got to see (or be) a mom in this mode to believe it. One minute she can be all business, organizing food lists, decorations, music ... and then become an emotional blubbering mess in the blink of an eye.
“I can’t believe my baby is all grown up!” becomes the tag line in any conversation concerning that child. For instance, Mom could be talking with the manager of the dental office who called to remind her of the child's appointment. Before she hangs up, she will somehow work in the refrain, "Yes, he'll have to switch from the pediatric dentist to our dentist because he's graduating this month, you know. I just can't believe he's all grown up!"
In Indiana, a mom of a high school senior in the month of May is a force to be reckoned with—or better yet, to be avoided completely! There’s a tradition here of having an open house around graduation time that resembles a scaled-down wedding reception. The pressure and stress of this event can be overwhelming if you're not a natural “entertainer” or hostess.
And this is where I am personally this week. My son is graduating high school. By the time you read this, the open house will have happened yesterday afternoon, and I am anticipating a bit of melancholic let-down Monday morning.
It would be easy to poke fun at the moms who build “shrines” for their kids at this milestone, but I’ll resist, because I “get it.” I think there is an underlying, unstated reason behind the frenzy that deserves some compassion.
At the heart of this circus is a mother’s process of letting go, saying goodbye, to her child. Many moms begin grieving at the beginning of the senior year, and the last month is highly emotional. In spite of a different kind of parenting that lies ahead, moms start to feel that there’s nothing productive left to do, and so they create something to do for that child. It’s like staging one last hurrah to say, “I love you. I’m proud of you—and does this make up for not doing the fundraiser in elementary school, the track meet I missed in junior high and the time I called you ‘honey’ in front of your coach?”
It’s all about that deep, unconditional, heart-tourniquet kind of love that looks a little desperate during this transition. What a paradox—a mom’s goal is to guide her dependent child to independence, and yet there is an inescapable desire to hold on to him. It’s baffling—beyond comprehension—the bittersweet way of a mother with her child who’s on the threshold of independence.
My son was dedicated at 3 months old. We were determined to give him the most solid spiritual background we could so that when he reached this point in life, he could take the next steps toward an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.
In many ways, it’s time to let him go now—let him make many new decisions that I may or may not agree with. That is a little scary.
So today, I’m clinging to scripture from comfort. I have always cherished Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Even though Mary held the Savior of the world who would inevitably become famous in some way, in that moment, he was primarily "her" son. She knew she would have to let him carve his own way once it was the proper time, but for now she could treasure the time with him and treasure the potential he embodied. I guess the sweetness of that verse moves me, but also just knowing this ambivalence I feel, pride mixed with a little grieving, is a normal part of motherhood that crosses time and culture.
And John 14:1, Jesus’ comforting assurance, though so familiar, is so meaningful: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Finally, John 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”
Thank you, Lord, for making me the mother of my son. May he become all that you destined him to be with a heart that is perpetually drawn to you. Give me the grace to move into this next phase of parenting and to trust you now as I did the day he was born. Your faithfulness lasts through all generations, and I am blessed with the privilege of trusting you with my precious son.
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