The Confusing Journey of Family Love

*this post originally published on foreverymom on September 12, 2019

We were sitting in the chapel pew at the New Student Dedication Service when the college president spoke these words, “Parents”, followed by a pregnant pause, “today is a game changer.” And that’s when I started to cry.
I didn’t intend to.
My kid is a commuter, still coming home to her cozy bed every night. It’s just that the words he said were so shockingly true. I didn’t know it when I waved goodbye and drove away the first time, but now I do. Nothing’s ever been the same since.

We all do the best we can post-gamer changer day. My friends, the ones who launched their firsts just a few weeks ago, they’ve each wandered into the maze of the unknown with their own brands of courage.
I keep telling them that it’s OK to grieve…. and it is.
I assure them they’re going to make it through this…. and they will.
I say that they have sweet surprises to anticipate in the next chapter…. and they do.
I remind them that they have a future and a hope…. and it’s the truth.

But if I’m dead honest, this whole deal of navigating relationships with young adult children is hard. Dog hard.
It’s also painful, so stock up on band-aids because you’re going to get some owies.
And it’s super confusing too…
For everybody.

It’s confusing for young adult children who are trying to figure out their unique identity apart from their family.
It’s complicated to sort through the effects of their parents’ sincere but imperfect love.
And it’s disconcerting as they compare their family of origin to all the seemingly shiny, new relationships they establish.

It’s confusing for parents too…
It’s contradictory how we still pay bills but can’t secure information about charges due to privacy laws.
It’s baffling how we can’t imagine what it’s like to not miss our kid, to turn totally nostalgic every time we walk past the Meijer penny pony or cook their favorite meal then eat it with their seat at the table empty, and they don’t miss us back.
It’s jarring to have our merits as parents judged primarily by our perceived mistakes instead of our efforts, investments and sacrifices.
And most perplexing of all, is our son or daughter’s definition of dialogue. It’s important to them to feel heard and validated as they share their perspectives on their evolving convictions but as soon as we say anything they don’t want to hear, the conversation is derailed.

Growing Pains….
It’s right there, in the name…..
For them.
For us.
For me.

If I tell my friends the whole truth, I’d say I’m not sure you ever get over that severing from the detachment that feels like a never-ending second childbirth. If you do, I’m not there yet.
Just like them, I’m still leaning hard into the Father’s love to give definition to my worth, to give hope to my future, to stamp validation on my past and to reorient my calling to whatever He has for me next. And so, fellow-mama, all I know to do is the same thing I did yesterday, the same thing I will do tomorrow morning when my alarm starts playing Steffany Gretzinger’s Morning Song.
Get up.
Embrace His fresh mercies for a new day. Even the severe ones.
And say thank you, because all good gifts, past, present and future, come from the gracious hand of our loving Father who can be entrusted with all of this confusion.

One thought on “The Confusing Journey of Family Love

  1. And yes, even at age 73 I am still facing some of these. Thank you for sharing. Sometimes when I reflect and listen to my adult children reminisce about childhood I feel I’m the only Mom who was stupid and immature and made undeniable mistakes. I’d love to have a do-over but knowing me, I’d probably make some of the same mistakes again. This year has brought a new area of detachment as my beautiful daughter looked for and found her birth mother, I encouraged her in this venture never imagining the possibility of sharing her love and her finding siblings. Although I would never deny her this desire to know her biological family, I find that those childhood memories and the history of negative experiences seem to be revived when exposed to adults who are mature and like me, have grown up. New relationships have no history so are entered in with clean slates. I’m rambling but your article brought reflections once again. Thanks, my cousin. I know we have some of the same genes. I would truly love to sit down and share experiences. Keep up the good work.

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