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Michelle Hamel contemplates how our children's big milestones often serve as parenting milestones as well.

May is a very full month for moms! Our calendars are filled with field trips, spring concerts, and honor-society inductions. College age kids are stressing through the overwhelming work of papers and final exams. If it's a graduation year for one (or more) of our kids, that adds even more! 

It's a lot. 

I've had years of multiple graduations. Our record is four: an associate's degree, plus high school, 8th grade, and preschool graduations! That year was a whirlwind — not only for our schedule but also for my mama heart. That much change at one time was a lot to process! 

Now that more than half of my eight children are adults and finished with school, graduations aren't coming so fast and furious. This year we only have one. My youngest son, Luke, is graduating from 8th grade and heading to high school. While I've been through lots of middle school graduations, I have to say that this one is hitting me a bit harder than the rest. I think that the combination of having a "big" decade birthday creeping up on me next month combined with my "baby boy," who is just shy of 5'11'' and definitely not a baby(!), is making me extra introspective.  




Big Milestones Bring Big Emotions

With Luke's graduation countdown, I've been praying a lot about all the emotions it's bringing up for me. Luke was one of my "bonus babies." (We were lucky enough to have two!) Because Luke and Kate came later in my parenting journey, I was able to appreciate their stages in a deeper way because I had learned by experience how fast childhood goes by. Of course, it's also bittersweet because with each change marks my "last" as a parent. One of the biggest consolations of a big family is that, even as older kids grow, there are younger ones to love on and care for. Eventually, you get to the end of the line — and I have arrived! 

Successful mothering is a bit ironic. We spend the beginning of motherhood completely attached to our children: they grow inside of us for nine months, we nourish them with our bodies for the first year (or more), and we do our best to meet their emotional and physical needs as they grow. Then, at some point in the preteen/early teen years, we need to unlearn all the ways that we have cared for and poured our love into our kids as we start the long, slow, (sometimes painful) process towards their independence. 

I've found myself drawn to the Gospel story of the Wedding Feast at Cana lately. The quick exchange between Mary, "They have no wine." and Jesus, "Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Then Mary's words to the steward, "Do whatever he tells you," lead to a life-changing moment (see John 2:3-5). When Jesus performs the very first of His public miracles by changing the water into wine at the request of His mother, it launches Him into the unfolding of God's plan for our redemption. Mary's request is a catalyst in the fulfillment of Jesus' life's purpose. 

Just as Mary encourages Jesus in the purpose God has for His life, so do we, as mothers, try to do the same for our children as they grow. We stop looking at their lives in terms of homework, school projects, sports games, and youth group commitments. Instead, we start to look at the deeper meaning. Who did God create them to be and how can we help to encourage and foster their emotional and spiritual growth to help prepare them to say their yes?  

This comes with a price. Mary knew that once Jesus stepped out publicly into His full purpose that life would never be the same for her. Those quiet years in Nazareth would be over, and that would be a source of grief for her. 




When the Nazareth Years Come to an End 

This is true for us as well. We are blessed with the Nazareth years with our children. Then we work to help them choose the best high school and college, and the best major that will bring them to independence and away from us. As our children grow and stretch their wings, it stretches the bonds that have attached our hearts to theirs since the moment we knew of their existence.  

The journey of letting go as a mom is not easy, even when you’ve experienced it multiple times! There are certainly quite a lot of tears, but there is joy as well. Seeing your children grow into young adults and finding their vocation is a beautiful thing.  

We will always have the memories of our Nazareth years. And, even though what they need from us changes, the new relationships that develop can be just as meaningful.  

And the best part? We won’t have to deal with any more school projects! 


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Copyright 2024 Michelle Hamel
Images: Canva