Twelve years ago, my first-born son arrived three weeks early and in the midst of Hurricane Frances. I remember the loud rain and crazy winds whirling around Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Nearby streets were flooding; I was so thankful to be safe, inside the hospital with my doctor and husband by my side. The next morning we learned that Frances spawned 101 tornadoes from Florida to Virginia…In hindsight, it seems like the perfect setting for my son to enter the world and for me to become a first-time mother.
Since then, motherhood has been a lot like a violent, cyclonic storm. No book or class could have possibly prepared me for it. And, I thought I was prepared. I’d read What to Expect when You’re Expecting; being an over-achiever, I’d even read ahead to What to Expect the First Year. My husband and I had taken the “Prepared Childbirth” classes and learned about labor, delivery and how to care for a newborn…
Looking back, I roll my eyes at the judgy person I was before I became a mother. I remember traveling for work and wondering why young parents around me could not calm fussy babies on airplanes?!? Or, why a frenzied mother of three would give her children sugary lollipops to keep them happy in the cart while shopping at Target?!? My son was born before everyone had iPhones, but I imagine that I would also have had an opinion about giving them to children in restaurants and waiting rooms…because I was prepared to be a really perfect mother. I was prepared to have perfect children…
But, God had other plans; we are all perfectly imperfect. And, twelve years into my journey as a mother, I’m thankful for my family with all of its flaws. I’m grateful for the lessons that my children have taught me about the silliness of pride and the beauty of authentic, unconditional love. I’m thankful that they’ve taught me to be humble and to give myself a little grace. I’ve also learned to extend that grace to other parents who are also struggling to do their best.
Back on September 8, 2004, when I first met my fragile, five-pound son, I felt like I was looking into my own eyes. He inherited them from me. Over the years, I’ve seen them reflect my own joy back at me (and my own strong-willed, stubbornness). Although we may not always agree on everything, when I look into my son’s eyes I can see that we are more alike than different.
As we celebrate his twelfth birthday, I can’t help but wonder if we are standing in the eye of the storm? No doubt, his teen years will bring new challenges. But, today I want to celebrate a dozen things (in no particular order) that I love about my son at age 12:
- His infinite thirst for knowledge.
- His insatiable appetite for books.
- His sensitive soul.
- His creative mind.
- His ability to forgive.
- His generous spirit.
- His easy laugh.
- His courage to color outside the lines.
- His kindness to younger children.
- His quirky sense of humor.
- His strong sense of loyalty.
- His inability to be anything but his authentic self.
If I could travel back in time to his birthday, I’d tell myself to relax and to surrender to the storm. As much as I will want to control my children and to protect them from danger, it isn’t possible. The best advice that I could give myself (and anyone who is reading along), is to simply enjoy the journey.
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