Doing Our Best

Yesterday, just as the sun was coming up, a wide-eyed, curious little boy showed up at my bedside with an armful of books about pirates. He was wearing Big Bird pajamas and had a pirate hat on. His Peter Pan dagger was skillfully tucked under his armpit. As I rubbed my eyes and slowly opened them, I could see the eagerness on his sweet face. “Mommy? Will you read to me?” he asked softly.

Ok. Maybe this all didn’t literally happen yesterday, but my heart recollects it as though it did. From the time that he could walk until somewhere around 5 years old, this was how our oldest child, Jimmy, greeted me. The only thing he loved more than his books about pirates was playing pirates. The only thing he loved more than his dagger and hat was actually playing Peter Pan and Captain Hook. And every morning this is how our day began. We read some, we played some, and eventually I drank a lot of coffee.

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These days, our mornings begin much differently. He shows up in the kitchen somewhere around 6:30 showered, dressed, and ready for the day. He kisses me on top of my head, pours himself a ginormous bowl of cereal with as much milk as he can squeeze in and still avoid overflow. He skillfully carries it to the table and inhales it all in less than 5 minutes. By 7:15, he’s out the door. As I watch him walk down the driveway every morning it hits me afresh that I won’t see his face again for at least 11 hours and I get a lump in my throat—every. single. time.

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I know, I know. Right about now you’re thinking, “I thought you said you homeschooled?!” The answer to your question is we did, and we do. Just not for Jimmy. Not anymore.

Going to a “real” high school has been on Jimmy’s radar for the past 2 years. He desperately wanted to be a freshman and to try out for the football team.  He wanted to join clubs, make friends, and attend pep rallies.  He explained to me that he wanted to sit in “real” classes with “real” teachers despite the obscene number of times I informed him that once upon a precious time I borrowed many pennies known as “student loans,” took real classes, and earned an actual piece of paper just so that I could bear the title “real teacher.” Nevertheless, he laid out his reasons carefully and logically and we considered them all. We visited the school, met the counselor and teachers, and we determined that Jimmy was ready for this change.

But friends, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not so sure I was ready for this change.

 It’s one thing to love teenagers, teach teenagers, and mentor teenagers and it’s a whole other {utterly terrifying} thing to raise one of your own.

But an awesome thing happened as I began to lay all my fears and anxieties at the feet of Jesus. I started recalling my own “real teacher” days. I remembered the names of some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) students and how I loved, prayed, and wept for them as though they belonged to me. I began thinking about all teachers, counselors, and other staff members that are called to serve and to educate children and how they treasure the very same things about that calling as I did. And there, in His presence, I began to breathe a little easier and I realized that raising and launching this precious teenager into the world of high school is basically just another piece of my faith puzzle.

The irony unfolding before me became almost comical: For 14 YEARS I’ve raised him to be independent; and the very minute he tried to exercise that independence every motherly instinct in my bones screamed at me to lock him in his safe, secure room and never under any circumstances let the world hurt, disappoint, or corrupt him. I confess that all the nonsense in this world makes it really hard to not give in to my instincts to protect and shelter. But no matter where he goes to school, he has choices of his own to make….and he can’t make them if I take away his opportunities to do so. At some point, I have to stop choosing his convictions and his faith for him, and let him choose them for himself. I have to give him the opportunity to stand for all the things he says he believes in. And, in return, I get a front row seat to watching him learn to use his unique gifts and talents to do whatever God calls him to.

Nowadays, we laugh and bond over the hilarious memes I texted him while he was on his lunch break. Long gone are his pirate books; they’ve been replaced with Biology books and 3-ring binders. That eager little boy from so long ago traded his dagger for a scientific calculator and his pirate hat for a football helmet. And on game day, when I see this amazing young man standing before me in a high school football uniform and full pads, I have to choke back tears because all I can think is, “That’s my not-so-little boy….”

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In one of our initial conversations about high school, I asked my husband what he thought we were supposed to do. He simply replied, “Our best.” Although I hated his answer at the time, I think he’s right.  This is the time when we hope and pray that our best has been good enough to get Jimmy here. This is the time when we don’t dwell on the what-ifs or maybes and all the big feelings, but we choose to walk in the same big faith we’ve walked in for the past 14 years of parenting and we trust that God–and Jimmy–know exactly what they’re doing. Every day, we simply do our best.

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3 thoughts on “Doing Our Best

  1. Yes. Exactly. You’ve beautifully explained what’s been on my heart for Rel lately. How can I expect to be the only human who pours into her teen life when I so valued the adults who poured into mine? How selfish and self centered would I be to keep her to myself when it’s time to nudge her toward her dreams? I am so thankful to be able to let my girls be the stars now and as they get older, to let them shine. Love you sister!

    Liked by 1 person

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