I was walking briskly through the mall on my way into Target, because you can do that now - speed-walk your way through one huge building and into another - when I saw the three of them. A mother strolling happily beside her teenage son and his girlfriend. They flowed like a trio of friends, all eating warm salted pretzels and laughing.
I didn't slow my stride to consider it deeply, but I felt a pang. Like a static-electric shock-to-my-heart-fear that maybe that wouldn't be me and my boy with his girlfriend dipping our pretzels into the same cup of velveeta. Even with all the good love we share in our home, maybe he wouldn't want me involved in his teenaged life. And so I wondered why as I pushed my way through the store to get socks and hamburger buns.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
You know that I pray for my kids, and I know you do too. And watchful defines us both. But thankful... does thankful define the words that spill over my parental lips? I thank God at breakfast for each one of them and the many aspects of each blessed day, and I write lists of what I'm grateful for down in my journal, but do I act like I'm Thankful for this kid? Toward this kid? For the moments I spend with this kid?
Watchful and critical is often more like it.
And I thought of the way I constantly correct. Pushing for him to be this, do that, and become so much more... And that mother walked in step with her child, and seemed to enjoy him right where he was. Of course I can't look into their home, or into years past when she had a prepubescent boy who didn't want to shower or eat vegetables or do homework. But regardless of the boy he is today, or the son she raised yesterday, or the child I'm raising, the picture stuck:
He needs me to like him.
He needs me to like him, if he's ever going to like me back.
He needs me to be likable, if he's ever going to share his grown up self with me.
Later that day we went on a family date out for ice cream and a movie. We saw Dolphin Tale 2, in which the two main kids from the original film three years ago are now practically grown. They spend much of the story fighting for their independence, as their parents struggle graciously to give them the support they need to find it. Over and over again one of the parental characters in the story keeps relinquishing responsibilities to these two young people, encouraging and praising them along the way. At one point he jokes, "When did you get so bossy?" to Sawyer, who wasn't really bossing, just leading his team beautifully. Everyone knew it was a joke, that he was actually saying, "When did you grow up?"
And they are... growing up. My oldest is doing it so fast. And I want to slow down my pace today, so that I can be part of his fun life tomorrow. One of my favorite mothers who blogs joyfully through the testosterone haze of raising her four boys from preschool to high school (all at the same time) is Monica Swanson. She recently wrote a series of posts that have helped illuminate the road before me, on what teenaged boys need. I'm reading them faithfully, that they might cast light on the patch of ground I'm speed-walking my way into. You can find one of her popular posts here, but the others in her series on what boys really need from their moms can be found on her sidebar.
I'm heading to bed now with the alarm set early, because I want to like my kids fresh tomorrow and that takes rest. And so here's to a good night's sleep and a calm, grace-filled morning... enjoying them, that they might grow up to enjoy us right back.