We aspire to become, don’t we? Always looking for that which marks us as “me”. I’m becoming a grandma for the first time, this month, and I noticed that this event that is so monumental and important in my life is finally one that I am not attaching any of my personal identity to. I’m so excited to meet this baby that has my blood running through his veins, but I don’t have any sense that it has anything to do with me, or that I helped this life come to be, the timing, the orchestration, or the beauty of this little family about to start. Instead, I feel set apart like someone standing on the sidelines at an art fair watching an artist start a painting on a blank canvas with no idea what the final masterpiece will look like. This is so different than all the other monumental things in my life that I seemed to attach my own identity to. In a way, I feel detached. A good detached. One that gives me freedom to just watch with my heart filling up with love as my son (middle child) and his wife plan to become parents. I’m anticipating watching as they experience a type of intense love they have no idea the extent of yet, that is about to wash over them just like it did for me with my first baby, and each one after. If a rollercoaster could be described in a kaleidoscope of color, that’s how I would describe this rush of awe, wonder and intense love when someone has their first baby. I’m excited for their journey, and their new life, and I get to just watch this story unfold.
When I had my own kids, it was different. Becoming a wife and then a mom, defined me. I’ve told people many times that I had found out what I was created to be when I became a mom. Obviously, that’s a big deal. A big identity that I developed while raising them over the years. I placed the bricks of pride (and sometimes guilt) into this foundation as I poured 150% of myself into the task of being the best mom I could possibly be. The mom that sacrificed all the time. The mom that tried to explain the reason behind the deep lessons of hope to develop character and faith in them. The mom that found as many apprenticeship opportunities and lessons that I could afford to allow them to tap into their hidden talents and dreams. I did all of this because I wanted to. It just poured out of me.
As the years went on, there was just so much love, support, traditions, and beautiful memories created because of the efforts I had poured into what I was hoping was creating legacy. And of course, I made mistakes. I look back now and would have done a few things differently, but that is where age and wisdom come in. I was so involved, I was so connected, so intertwined with all of it that as they became teenagers, then young adults, their successes became my successes and their failures became my failures, and that’s when the painful tilt of the pendulum happened for me… when I realized that all those years of pouring into them, I may have sacrificed a little too much of myself without realizing it, actually creating a co-dependency I never intended, in some of it. All of what I was trying to teach that I thought was enabling them to become responsible and know how to handle the difficult stuff of life, was actually doing too much for them in efforts to help them avoid pain. I didn’t let them fail, so they could truly learn. Because I had so deeply connected myself with this intricate weaving, like a macramé with distinctly planned knots at each junction, when it was time to let go, I didn’t know how. Who they had become and the decisions they were making, made up all I believed about myself and who I was.
My kids are their own people, who they become, the amazing accomplishments they have are theirs to celebrate, and the failures they will see are theirs to learn from, not mine to regret. The pouring in… all good stuff, but the loss of balance, led me, without seeing it happen, to believe that being a mom was all that I was. It was ALL that I was, and when I lost family in an unexpected separation from my husband, even though two of my kids were then 18 and 20 years old, I wavered, toppled, and felt shattered. Every parent that has experienced empty nest understands this. Every woman that has been divorced after a long-term marriage understand this.
Who was I? Who am I still becoming? We place so much in our status, in what we’ve done, in the impression we give, in our accomplishments, even in how much we help others and the good we have done. We decide that is who we are, and sometimes when some of it goes wrong, then we blame our core being, our identity, and we falter, trip and fall. And sometimes we mistakenly think who we are, is who are kids are today. Regardless of whether they "become" what you hoped, or not, they are not you. Their lives will be an unfolding of their beautiful human spirit and their own journey to who they are continually becoming. Just like your own life is.
I think I’m coming along quite well in the department of letting my kids go, not trying to give my opinion or control their outcomes in any way anymore. My daughter and I have actually had some beautifully candid conversations about this. (She’s the youngest and probably felt this the most from me). Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t want to impart wisdom to her that comes with age, I do. But the difference is that she asks for those moments now, and so she is more open to hear what I have to say, and adjust her decisions, or not. And the difference in me is that I’m not consumed worrying that my kids my make the “wrong” decision. “Wrong” may just mean different than how I would have handled something. When I see parents still trying to control their adult kids, I cringe. I know they don’t see it, just like I didn’t. And I know it happens because of all the good efforts, intense love, great intentions, and deep need to protect and care for our offspring. I’m not saying to do much of what we did, just to have balance in it. As a mom, it happens over the span of time, from the time taking care of them as babies, when they can’t care for themselves, and has layers and layers of minutes, days, months and years that lead us to the place that answers the question when asked, “Who are you?” “I am a mom.”
I want to feel led, not driven. You know that feeling right? Fear drives me sometimes. Driven to work harder to make sure I’m able to support myself and that my future is secure. Driven by that question if I’m ever doing enough, accomplishing enough, being enough. I’ve accomplished so many important things in life. This should not be a feeling that continues to drive me to fill my time and strive until exhaustion. Of course, we have to plan, have goals and work hard, but it always comes back to balance and knowing what is truly important in this life, understanding who we are below the surface, and peeling away the layers of things that rest on us and eat our time away, but do not serve us with wholeness and purpose.
I just got to meet my oldest son and his wife to camp in the Sequoias. I’ve been planning this for many months, years actually, since I haven’t car camped since several years prior to my separation/divorce and my sons going off to college. Our family used to camp every summer and I loved it. Being in nature with the people I love is my absolute favorite thing. And although I had been in the Redwoods, I don’t think I’ve been to Sequoia National Forest in over 30 years. I grew up in Southern California, but I lived in other states for 24 years of my life. Where has the time gone???
I was so excited to step away from all the responsibilities and be off the grid for a week. Although I struggle to keep balance when I’m at home, when I’m on vacation, I have no problem completing stepping away. I work hard, but I know how to play hard and rest hard too. You know how things may come to derail your long-planned vacations sometimes? It’s just life, isn’t it? Ten days prior to the trip, I cracked a crown. Okay. Called my dentist. I had to schedule the temp and the permanent and squeeze that into a busy schedule. The permanent was done the day before I left. But, 4 days prior to leaving, I stubbed my toe so bad, I thought I broke it. How can a little thing hurt so much? Part of my trip was hiking up a steep hill to a cabin. This one really messed with my excitement and a bit of sadness started creeping in that I might not feel good the whole time, which of course, would really affect my enjoyment of a long-needed vacation and time with my kids who I haven’t seen in a long time because of the pandemic. But, after lots of care, the day I left, it was good enough to get in my hiking boots and it didn’t interrupt my trip, even the hiking! Then, when already on the road, and the day we were arriving at the campsite, we received notification that air quality was being affected by Northern California fires. Thankfully, the air quality was still okay for us to be there. The campsite couldn’t have been more perfect and our time together in the midst of magical Sequoias was incredible.
So, on the other side of all the obstacles, my trip was perfect. I was able to see and do all I had planned, and I was off the grid for 6 days, which was glorious, but most importantly, the realization of how much my heart and soul is filled up when I make time to be able to see my kids, only reminds me 100-fold what really matters in this life. Somehow it made coming back to a too-busy schedule a little more acceptable. Although my new life is very different, and I’m far from my kids who all live out of state, and I have to work extra hard now, this short period of time with them, reminds me of what really matters, and who I am. Who I always have been. This “becoming” and really finding the fullness of myself, will always involve connecting with my people. I’ve not lost myself. Sometimes, I just need to peel away some layers to see who I’ve always been, who I am, and who I’m still becoming. In the long run, these are the moments that matter most, although they may just be a few days out of the 365 in your year. Make time for these. I’m so very thankful.