One day when my kids were very small, I was talking to my mother about a new habit of mine. Even though I took several daily walks with the kids during those busy years, I had begun getting up really early and walking by myself before my husband left for work. I used the time to clear my introverted head to get ready for the upcoming toddler-preschooler interaction marathon of the day. While walking, I looked at the sky and listened to Marc Cohn’s self-titled album in cassette form on my Walkman. (Seriously, it was not a million years ago. I am SO YOUNG! And also, get that album and listen to it in whatever form you can. You will thank me.) As I spoke about how this new practice was changing my life for the better, I remember my mother looking at me sideways. “But you love sleep,” she said. “You’ve never been an early riser if you could help it.” And she was right, of course. I’m still a huge fan of sleep. But as much as my mother knew about me, and you can make the case she knew more than most, she didn’t know who I was becoming. And who could blame her. I didn’t even know. I still don’t!
Who could have predicted that the painfully shy, conflict-allergic girl she raised would start an early childhood music business and work in front of people all day? Or stand in front of town meetings fighting for school funding? Or write letters to the editor? Or lead the singing at church? My Mom saw all of that happen, and she was proud of me, though maybe surprised. Or possibly she saw some of that stuff in me all along. It’s hard to know, and I can’t ask her, unfortunately. But it makes me think of the nature of mothers and how the best of them believe in potential. They open doors and allow for the wind to come blowing through. They are open to surprise. They cling less and trust more, and they move from chief string-holder to front-row audience member. They orchestrate less and they delight much more. They clap loudly and their smiles are embarrassingly wide. They quit the stage crew, descend from the wings, stuff their program under their seat, and simply witness and cheer what they see unfolding. My kids were born with talents and gifts I couldn’t dream of, and it will be remarkable to watch them learn, grow and shine in the years ahead, but that doesn’t mean it will be uneventful, or what I would choose, or even all positive. Humanity is a winding road, and none are exempt from the twists and turns. This is challenging for a recovering helicopter parent like me, but in the end it’s about trust. I entrust them to God and to themselves, and that sounds odd, I know. The truth is, I love them much more than I love myself, and it can be hard for me to give their lives to them, as though they were ever mine to begin with. But to hold them too closely during these years or to define expectations is to close too many doors. I can’t imagine the people who will cross their paths and teach them or learn from them and change absolutely everything. I can’t know how professors or work or life or opportunities will imprint on their memories, minds, and souls. I can’t predict how one stage or bit of wisdom or lesson will lead to the next and the next and the next. I can’t know how all of that will happen, and I can’t steer. I can’t.
Ah, but I have a feeling that those kids of mine are going to shine in ways none of us can imagine. As my mother used to say, so much of what a child becomes is what they hand you at the hospital. In other words, a baby is unique in his or her potential, interests, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, challenges, quirks, and personality. We get to participate in beginning chapters of that story deeper than anyone else and then watch it unfold outside of us. In these early-adult years, I don’t want to tell my children who they are. I want to tell them what I see, and that’s a very different shift. It’s pretty miraculous actually, a person becoming who they are. What a privilege to walk each other through, even from a distance.
© 2017 my little epiphanies Kerry Campbell all rights reserved