Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Grace, England and Growing Up

So Grace is in England. If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you already know this.  And due to my inability to suffer in silence, you also know that sending her off on the trip of her dreams was both personally thrilling and maternally traumatic.  My baby!

When we returned from the airport, I wrote this on Facebook - "I just watched my daughter navigate a labyrinth of ticket scanners, preteen hockey players from the Czech republic, airport security and a weepy couple blowing kisses to each other as they parted. I knew that this was the parental paradox. We realize that we have somehow managed to do it right when our children are able to walk away from us, in freedom and strength and love. She's holding onto God's hand now, not mine. And I am thrilled. And proud. And a little broken. But in a good way."   

The wonderful and odd thing about seeing Grace off was that I wasn't worried.  I knew that she'd be safer in the air than she is, say, walking down our stairs or riding in a car on the 401.  I trust her judgement, her wisdom, her insight into people, her knowledge and faith in God. I wasn't worried about her safety.

My daughter was taking a major step of independence, and I knew that when she returned, she would be different.  We say, they will always be our babies, but the reality is that our relationships with our children change as they grow into adulthood. They have to. If we keep treating our children like, well, children, we will either cripple them or push them away.  We have to see the maturity and depth as it builds up and flows from our young people. We have to acknowledge and honour it in them, because in most cases, it is hard-won. It is not easy growing up. It hurts. It's scary. It's hard. And when our children go through everything they need to in order to get to where they need to be, we as parents had better be there cheering them on, because it was not an easy journey for them.

More than anyone else in Grace's life, I know what she went through to get to the place where she was able to get on that plane.  And I applaud her for it. I celebrate her strength and faith. I honour her perseverance and courage, and her willingness to humble herself and seek God for help when her feeble resources run out. And I know that when she comes home, the fruit of all of that work will be ripening in her. She will not be the same. And I rejoice in that. And weep, because the bittersweet truth of it all is that in order to have a healthy, strong, loving relationship with the young woman who will be returning from England in a month, I have to say good-bye to baby Grace....and toddler Grace....and kid Grace and pre-teen Grace and adolescent Grace.

I will do it, because it is right, and good, and what both Grace and I need. While I am doing it, though, all of this dreadful, painful, healthy letting go, I will find myself adopting the slightly confused, wondrous, wounded and proud demeanor of all parents of young adults.  You've seen them.  They tear up at odd moments.  They carry pictures in their wallets and whip them out with the least encouragement, of graduations and engagement parties and brides and grooms and babies.  They ask questions like, when did this happen? How did they grow up so fast? Where did my baby go?  And then they laugh softly, not expecting answers because there are none. No one knows where our babies went.  We'll never understand how our kids got so smart, or accomplished, or strong, or faithful, or brave.  We'll always wonder where the years went, and we'll never figure it out.  We'll marvel the fact that joy and pain can exist together so eloquently in our hearts.

 There are moments along our journey as parents of young adults that grant us grace in the midst of our loss.  Today, while collecting clothes for laundry, I found out where all of our socks have been hiding. On the floor under Grace's bed.  There had to have been at least 10 pairs, plus the customary assorted singles.  We've been wearing mismatched socks for weeks.  I told her about it on Facebook. She blamed the Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc, with feline disdain, refused to comment.  I reveled in a brief glimpse of my baby.  I am still needed.  I remain Mom, "she who finds that which is lost."

It's not much, but I'll take it.


Amanda Darker said...

I love this post Kelly! :)

Kelly said...

Thank you so much, Amanda! I am so excited for you and John, as you begin this amazing journey as parents! Anya is a blessed little girl!

My Zimbio