As we greeted those sitting next to us in church that Sunday, one of my dear children accidentally kicked over my husband’s full — very full — cup of coffee. Creamy brown liquid dribbled in rivulets from our seat in the back down to five or six rows ahead. When my husband and kids hurriedly left to grab paper towels, I whispered to the young mama with three small children next to me, “See? Little kids aren’t the only kids causing a ruckus during church.”
She laughed, and I didn’t miss the layer of relief that relaxed her grin.
So, while most people in church listened to announcements, my husband, kids, and I patrolled the aisles in front of us and cleaned stray coffee streams. Thankfully, our church home is laid back, and nobody seemed bothered by our activity — or my clip-cloppy heels.
I wasn’t bothered, either, not even a little. I found the whole thing more shake-your-head funny than embarrassing. But ya’ know, I only wish I was as laid back about all my kids’ mishaps.
Because let me tell you, I’ve yelled when I should have held and counted up their shortcomings when I should have been long on grace. I’ve swung like a crazy pendulum, parenting like a Chinook helicopter one minute and then too un-involved the next.
Heaven knows all the times I’ve stormed its gates with prayers, asking God to please undo what I’ve done, to cover what I’ve left exposed.
I never want to give the impression that in my home things here are perfect blue skies and trouble-free times. My kids can make choices that almost spin my head off my shoulders, and I can bring some series smack-down. But most days, you aren’t going to hear about our more angsty moments because, understandably, teenagers don’t want their difficult business all over Mama’s social media. Honestly, they don’t always want all their good business on my social media, either. And they have the right to feel that way. They have the right to keep parts of their life sacred and private, and I would rather lose all ten fingers than disrespect that or them.
Of course, no matter the age, a kid deserves to have her thoughts and feelings respected. But when considering a toddler or young child’s shenanigans, there is a cutesy (albeit exhausting, frustrating, overwhelming) factor to them that makes sharing easier. And those teen shenanigans? Well, they ain’t so cute, y’all.
So in general, the older kids get, the easier it is for a mama to feel more isolated.
Not only that, but mamas of big kids are continually met with an awareness that limited time remains to instill in our people all we want to teach them. It all feels immensely heavy, weighted with responsibility.
A few years ago, I shared with my longtime friend Cheryl about a particularly challenging day with one of my kids, and she said something I’ve never forgotten. With her trademark Texas accent, she offered,
“Kristen, sometimes you just have to look at him and say, ‘Baby, I’m gonna hug the mean right outta you.’ And then do it.”
In other words, I have to keep moving toward them. So I use my words as well as my arms to wrap them in love and security. I hold their faces and look in their eyes and tell them: You are my treasures! How in the world did I get the honor of being your mama?
Oh, yes, we Strongs have streams of mess that run down our four walls and we get things wrong with each other. But we don’t ignore the muck or stare at it with squinted eyes and crossed arms.
We get down on all fours and wipe up the sopping mess and say I’m sorry and embrace the grace of a fresh start again. We reach towards these big kids and do our best to love the ugly right out of them. Even when it feels the opposite of what we want to do.
Especially when it feels the opposite of what we want to do.
It’s hard to be a teen. It’s hard to be a parent of teens. It always has been, and it always will be. But may my own see our home as a safe harbor and know that the flawed people in it are genuinely for them, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Especially when it doesn’t feel like it.
And may we mamas always find in Christ a safe harbor as well, the One who continually moves toward us and wraps His arms around our shoulders and His affirmation around our hearts. The One who elbows His Father and says, “Just look at her and the amazing job she’s doing!” And may we believe it, even when it doesn’t feel like it.