It was a conversation at an ice cream shop that sparked it. There we were in the long, long line that snaked up and back, the aroma of waffle cones and excitement scenting the air. I hadn’t seen her for quite some time, and her face, when she saw me, cracked into a bright, warm smile.
“She” is an Amish woman. I met her years ago at the local coffee shop. She created delicacies in the shape of pastries and comfort food behind the counter. I, on the other side of it, created, too, stitching together stories of life and laughter and love that flowed into homes on the pages of a newspaper.
Her babies came to her through adoption. And while mine came to me by birth, we are both mothers. I heard it again as we spoke in that line, catching up.
I told her how our four sons are in four different states. That the older ones had never quite felt like they fit in here, or belonged. That it really hurt me over the years, but, “I finally decided that it was God’s way of keeping their roots loose here so that they’d be better able to go out and do what they’re called to do.” After all, that’s my greatest wish and desire, that my sons would follow God.
Light dawned on her face in shades of hope and peace. “My oldest one has told me, ‘Mom, I don’t wanna stay around here.'” A pause. I could see that the arrow had hit. Then, “I’m glad I talked to you.”
As a veteran Mother of Children Who Fly, here’s what I know–that control and shame are the killers of relationship. I know because I used to use them. I also know I’m not the only one.
We have a great deal of power, we mothers. We can try to control our kids, making them do what we want, but control is the hands around the neck of love. It alienates us from the very ones we love, causing them to push back, to run away.
Control, I’ve learned, often springs from fear. We are afraid of what will happen if they (X, Y, or Z). We are afraid of what will happen if they don’t (X, Y, or Z). We’re afraid, we’re afraid, we’re afraid.
Shame is another awful tool we use. A friend once taught us that shame is a more powerful motivator than even fear. A boy will jump off of a cliff when dared by his peers, even if he’s deathly afraid. He fears the shame more than what awaits at cliff’s bottom. And so he’ll jump. This message struck us to the core, my husband and I, and we repented of using shame then and there.
Shame, like control, will work, but it alienates, stifles, and kills. We’re afraid, we’re afraid, we’re afraid, so we reach for these hellish tools.
The truth is that the fear that fuels both control and shame is not our children’s responsibility. It is ours.
In my life, I’ve had to do the hard work of digging to find the roots of my own fear, control, and shame. What I found was that my perspective of God was horribly skewed, and that I needed a lot of healing from my own past. That was never my sons’ responsibility. It was and is mine.
When a mother does the hard work of finding healing for her own emotional wounds, she becomes a force to be reckoned with. She parents her children from a place of love, honor, and strength. She respects them as individual human beings, not mere extensions of herself, and, most of all, she trusts her God.
When a mother trusts her God, she will release her children into His hands. In that beautiful, wrenching, holy work of letting go, she will learn this wonderful truth…that God will take them up.
Your choices here will determine whether your children have received the mother lode of maternal comfort, love, and strength or if they will be crushed beneath a mother load, a load of shame and alienation. If you choose to heal, I can tell you right now that your children will be the happy, happy recipients of the first. And your children will return to you. I believe it.
With love today,
Rhonda, Veteran Mother of Children Who Fly
P. S. – I have had a son travel the globe, following Christ in faraway places I could not reach. I have had a son lost in the world of addiction, following his own twisted desires into darkness, in faraway places I could never reach. I had to let both of them go. And when I did, God took them up. He used each of their journeys to change me, to heal me, to make me a much better person than I ever could have been on my own.