As she drops her oldest child off at college, Nicole Johnson contemplates her parenting journey.
So that’s it then, huh? We are here? The little miracle you blessed us with eighteen years ago now just packs up and leaves? It feels so surreal, Lord. So unnatural. So NOT what I want.
Do you remember the day I quite literally fell to my knees and begged you to protect him as I carried him in my womb? The same womb that had held his brother or sister only months before and had let go way too soon. He was our first rainbow baby -- our first born -- our initiation into this wild and crazy ride of parenting.
Do you remember how tightly I held him that first night in the hospital, Lord? I wouldn’t let anyone else hold him (something his Nana will never let me forget). I snuggled him like a teddy bear and ignored all encouragement from the nurses to put him in the bassinet beside me, never mind their suggestion to send him to the nursery so I could rest. “Do you know how long I’ve waited for this child?” I thought to myself. “Do you have any idea how hard I’ve prayed for him?” You knew, Lord. You knew. And how you must have chuckled to yourself when I told those nurses in no uncertain terms that my little guy would not be seeing the inside of that nursery.
My love for him sent me into a bit of a tailspin, but I guess you don’t need reminding of my constant conversation with you as I asked time and again for you to help me, guide me, strengthen me and make me somehow worthy of fulfilling all this tiny human would need from me. Oh, I made so many mistakes, Lord, yet through it all you remained so forgiving and somehow this baby of mine grew into a young man I admire deeply. I not only love him, Lord, I like him. I like him so much.
There was much I didn’t expect in my role as a mom. I continue to be struck with all this guy has taught me about life, about myself and about my relationship with you. I didn’t know you would use him to draw me closer to you, but even though I was the one who was supposed to have all the answers, I am a better person for all I have learned from my son.
I get that it is not all about me, but can I just be brutally honest and admit how much I wish it was? 'Cuz I’d scoop him up and turn back time and live the journey again and again. I’d happily relive the challenges if it meant I could feel the softness of his baby skin, solve all his problems with a band-aid and a kiss and watch as he worked for hours on building a track line and sent Thomas the Train on his merry-tootin’ way.
The memories, eighteen years of them. They are both a blessing and a cross as I mourn the truth that they are moments I cannot get back. It takes my breath away when I sit in the realization of how quickly it all went.
It’s the little things I’ll miss the most: my morning hug, the way he always takes time to ask me about my day, his cheerful “thanks for dinner!” (even when I serve him chicken nuggets fresh from the freezer), the way he never passes his little sister without stopping to kiss her on top of her head (he often does that for me too - oh how I’ll miss it). I’ll even miss the thumping of his feet upstairs, the likes of living with an elephant, and the water bottles he leaves on the side of the sink with the promise that they will be washed “later.” (OK, maybe not that one …)
I get it -- my job is far from over and, talking to anyone else whose children have flown the coop, I’m assured he will be back plenty. The thing is, he’s off to begin this next phase of his life where he will be without me more than he’s with me. He will carve his own path and somewhere along the way, meet the woman he will get to spend the rest of his life with, create a family with and one day, even be in the place I am now, wondering how it all went so fast.
It’s this beautiful circle of life, Lord, the rhythm you’ve danced to for thousands of years, yet somehow manage to have compassion for each one of us living it for the first time. You will have to be gentle with me as I adjust to this new normal. I imagine I’ll be checking in with you often and seeking peace of heart I may not be able to find on my own for a while. In case I haven’t said it recently Lord, thank you. For the incredible privilege and honor of being this guy’s mom, thank you.
While my title will never change, the job responsibilities seem to never stay the same. Once again I’m being called into the unknown, the uncomfortable, the part where it’s time to let go a little more, or I guess a lot more. I’ll never forget how challenging it was for my guy to let go of me at the start of first grade. Kindergarten having been half-day, the beginning of first grade meant getting used to being away from me for a full day. It was so tough on him, and therefore so tough on me. Looking back through his schoolwork, I found an absolute gem that speaks to the bond between us. When asked to write his goal for the year, my little man wrote, “to stop missing my mom at school.” To think that I could possibly stop missing this son of mine is definitely too lofty a goal. But finding peace in the new normal and joy in all I know this guy will offer the world, now that’s something I can strive for.
Copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson
Images copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nicole and her husband have been blessed with three children. Nicole markets the mission of a non-profit that provides early therapies for children diagnosed with developmental delays. She and her husband serve on the board for the New England chapter of Bethany Christian Services, a national adoption agency. Nicole's family advocates for life, adoption, and embracing children with special needs. Visit her blog at Joy in the Journey.