On the Important Stuff, Before They Leave

It seems that, more and more lately, I am pondering what it will look like to launch our firstborn. It’s still two-and-a-half years away, but I have this thing I do. I think of it as my internal peace-making tool, my anti-anxiety technique. Whenever there is something that is going to happen, or maybe even might happen, I rehearse it. I think about it, turning it over and around in my head and in my heart. I allow the idea of this “happening” to sink down deep inside me, and begin to feel like it belongs there, like “All shall be well” there.

I suppose some might describe this as obsessive or fearful, anxiously anticipating future events, and thinking about how they will go. All I can say, though, is that inside my head, this feels like a good thing. A very good thing.

There are so many “happenings” that I have rehearsed, and that I continue to rehearse. Prenatal diagnostics with my second-born indicated a strong possibility that she would be born with Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome). For five months, I rehearsed parenting a child with Down Syndrome. I thought about her birth. I thought about her going to school. I thought about how my family would react. I mourned some losses I anticipated, and began to embrace the joys that would also come. Haley was born in August of 1999, healthy and genetically typical. There was something strange and beautiful about having surrendered to whatever and whoever she would be.

I periodically rehearse a friend dying, or my husband dying, or one of my parents dying. I think about what that will look like. I imagine the feelings and consider how life will go on.

Strange? Maybe.

I am inclined to think that by turning these “happenings” around in my head and my heart, I am preparing myself for the real deal. Perhaps, it won’t feel like completely unfamiliar territory.

One of my recent ponderings has been about launching our first. He’s a Sophomore right now, thinking about classes for his Junior year. I’ve begun to think about his college decision, and what life will be like when he’s no longer living under our roof. Such a mix of emotions.

In a rare moment of quiet this evening, my husband and I were reflecting upon the qualities we especially love in our children, and the challenges we see ahead for them. We solidified some goals we have for them, and confirmed with one another that we are headed in the right direction. I commented that there are times when I look at one or another of our three and think, “What have I missed? What did I forget to tell you? How can you possibly think that, having grown up in our home? I must have neglected to tell you that all-important thing, that most important thing.”

There is a wonderful place that I enjoy visiting occasionally. It is a place where I am certain to be cared for and loved. It is a place where I am understood and challenged. It is a place where I feel known, because it is a gathering of women who have lived many of the things I have lived. You can find (in)courage here. I love their by-line: “home for the hearts of women.” About a year ago, (in)courage had a lovely, thoughtful piece by Ann Voskamp about that moment before the launching, the moment when you wonder if you’ve said all the right things, taught all the right things. My favorite line, written as a longing, a desire for her son:

That you’ll be radical about grace and relentless about truth and resolute about holiness and vows and the real hills worth dying on.

That’s the stuff, huh? The stuff you don’t want to forget to say. The stuff you just might miss in the midst of nursing and feeding and tying shoes and potty-training, and helping with homework, and driving here and there and everywhere, and making meals, and helping with more homework, and putting bandaids on skinned knees, and wiping away broken-hearted tears.

I need to think a bit more about what I’ve missed. I’m hoping he’s caught most of it, in between and among everything, everything we’ve done, everything I’ve offered, all that I’ve given of myself. I am trusting the Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps. And yet, with two-and-a-half years before launch time, I want to consider what I’ve missed and whether there’s still time.

In the meantime, Ann’s thoughts to her son are amazing food for thought. I pray that they will sink down deep, as you ponder the launching. What are you teaching today that will last for eternity?

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