I think back to those times: a little girl undergoing one surgery after another to construct an ear that was never there; a young mother facing chemotherapy and uncertainty; a mother of many warned by doctors that she could die delivering the baby she carried. In each instance, people commended my courage. But those weren't instances of courage to me. They were just doing what had to be done.
Courage was what I'd beg of God when I just couldn't keep breathing on my own, when my breath caught and I needed God just to exhale. Courage was my prayer when I let my teenagers go out into that great big world. What I wanted was to keep them home, hold them close, protect them forever. As my big boys began to march forth into life, they walked around with pieces of my heart inside of them. Suddenly, I was vulnerable. I saw that they were going to be hurt and I was going to watch them suffer. There was no way around it. They would make mistakes and get hurt. They would learn about what's out there in a fallen world, and get hurt. They would meet many, many people and some of them would hurt them. Nothing was ever so simple as it was when they were babies in my arms. Then, I could gather them up and soothe their hurts, chase away their fears, make every little thing “all better” just by my presence. But as they grew, I found myself praying for courage. I began to understand that, for mothers, the heroic effort is in letting them go.
It's not so much that I wanted them to be little again. To want that would have been to wish away the beautiful people they had grown to be, to wish away years of loving and living together. No, instead, I wanted to be the mother I was when they were babies. I wanted the power to gather them on my lap and soothe them as I rocked. I wanted to shelter and protect and to be their whole world. I wanted to be able to ensure that their days were happy and healthy and holy. I wanted to cradle them in the protection of my arms. I wanted to love them with all my heart. And I wanted that to be enough. Instead, I must remember that for all their lives, my calling is to have the courage to love them, knowing that they will leave, and trusting that God will care for them more tenderly than I ever could.
Mothering older children takes courage, because just as sure as the sun will rise, so will there be trouble in the lives of our children. I am left to storm heaven on their behalf and to thank the Lord for the gift they are.I shore myself up for the years of mothering that lie ahead by reminding myself of the words of Blessed Mary MacKillop: Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you all your life. God will reward you as only He can.
~republished from Small Steps Companion Journal
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