My oldest son turns 17 tomorrow—yes, on Valentine’s Day—and already my heart is aching at how soon he will be gone. Just yesterday he was running home from school, blonde bowl-cut hair flying, snow boots carrying muddy puddles into the kitchen and skidding to a stop to wrap his arms around my waist. “I missed you Mom!”
And as my first grader, my fifth son, repeats the same ritual today, wearing the same red coat and a very similar cherubic face, you can imagine how my mind skips and stutters and puzzles where the years have gone.
I certainly can’t say I wasn’t warned. If there is one sentiment that experienced mothers like to share with newbies it’s this: “Enjoy your children. They grow up so quickly.” Those words seemed almost cruel when my life was diapers and illness and sleepless nights, but now that my son has just two years—two short years!- before he leaves on his mission I can vouch for their verity.
But there are so many other things I was never told: nursing a baby is incredibly painful, the 6 months between walking and nursery age is a true test of faith and potty training can completely destroy your self esteem.
The generation of mothers and parenting books before me weren’t as open about the crazy chaos of childrearing and I had to carve out a network of peers who would speak the truth. And as my friends have started sending out their sons to distant(or not –so-distant) lands they’ve warned me:
“Just when he becomes a compassionate, civilized human being he’ll leave you.”
“How long has he been gone? The calendar might say three months but it’s been a million billion years.”
And Kristen who welcomed home one son just to send off another the next week, “It’s almost impossible to be happy at this farewell when I know how incredibly long two years lasts, how desperately I am going to miss him.”
Dalene Rowley considers speaking the truth one of her life missions and in “Reluctant Sower” she eloquently describes the last weeks before her son’s mission and her grief at his departure. I’ve read the piece a half-dozen times and still can’t get through without tears spattering the page. Yes, yes, she’s grateful that he’s worthy, faithful and serving with honor—but her heart aches when passing his empty chair.
Two of my son’s friends received mission calls this week—Bangkok, Thailand and Argentina. When they come home, my boy will be leaving. There’s a good chance they’ll speak in the same sacrament meeting. I feel the urgency of time ticking by. How will we take those trips we dreamt of? What more should I be teaching him? When he mentioned working as a river guide this summer and then starting college immediately after graduation next year I let out a scream of pain—“No! I get one more summer with you. One more.”
Dalene warns that the two years of missionary work are the only years that DON’T fly by for a mother. Perhaps, I could step into a missionary mom’s timeline because I need to
and lengthen my time with my boy.
Please take a few minutes and a box of tissues to read “Reluctant Sower” and then tell me…
What aspects of parenting were you never told about?
Do you think the current generation of mothers is more willing to share her hurts and mistakes than the previous ones?
Mothers who have sent out missionaries—what advice, experiences can you share with us?
Missionaries—don’t comment here. Go write to you mother!