But in fact, there is another child turning 13 on this very day.
My first-born son. The one who tested me in ways only motherhood could.
From the blank box mocking me on each failed pregnancy test and the heartbreak when month after month seemed to mean forever, to the tender pink streaks scarring their way across my belly while he kicked and stretched and flopped about, to the sleepless nights and protests from a hungry baby who refused to nurse without frustration and grief, he had exhausted my bravado as a mom.
I navigated Lego minefields with tentative steps across his darkened room to sit by his bedside and listen as he dreamed and wonder at how I became his mother. How this child with thick blonde hair and blue eyes could be mine.
I felt utterly unequipped at the task I was called to. Raising this child to have the best possible chance at encountering God. At seeing grace in action and faith in my life. At seeing a dynamic relationship that he would desire as his own. How could I raise this child to love Jesus and church and missions? To live with passion and meaning in life?
And I worried because I knew how hard my journey to faith and grace and love for God has been. How my teen years were spent blind and absent, angry at God when I thought the church bred hypocrites and haters and filled pews with fools I wanted nothing to do with.
I worried because I now know how those prayers must have felt coming from my mother’s lips, the fervent pleas of protection and salvation for me when I was wandering lost.
And I know this child so well, because he mirrors me in so many ways.
So much of my life I’ve been about being his mom.
So many years of him, have also been the making of me.
Because he was my first.
Because we grew up together and learned along the way.
Because we butt heads when our wills collide and because I understand him like no other.
Because in a thousand tiny ways, he was the gift of motherhood to me, the kind of motherhood that softens hard edges and dies a bit each day to selfishness and pride and thinking I’ve got it together.
The kind of motherhood that tries the soul and fills the spirit.
The kind of motherhood that brought me to my knees in prayer and lifted my hands in praise and made me sing full hearted hallelujah’s for the life God has given me.
The kind of motherhood I never thought I wanted but desperately needed.
The kind of motherhood that taught me to laugh at myself when I drop blubbery pie on the ground and it splatters on the ceiling like a Jackson Pollack.
The kind of motherhood that clenches fists at bullies and teaches what it really means to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, because nothing hurts a mother’s heart more than the pain in your child.
The kind of motherhood that wants a just world because your child is forever walking around in it and we have to make it better.
The kind of motherhood that never sleeps without a tiny rap at the door and the man child I once tucked in now lumbers over me and wraps me in a goodnight hug and his embrace is both foreign and familiar because I swear I used to lift him squealing in his batman jammies and fly him to bed a moment ago. And now his arms are solid and his wide palms pat me on the back and I’m reminded of long nights burping him on my shoulder and praying he would sleep.
And I swear I blinked and suddenly he towers above me and speaks wisdom and kindness and grace into my life and I wonder at it all.
And now he’s a teenager and I don’t tell his story here because he has his own. I don’t post pictures of him without his approval. I don’t write about him at all if ever there’s a story involving him he isn’t willing to tell.
So I tell the story of motherhood, and in that, the making of a man.
And this is the letting go. The part where the days begin to blur a bit and the crook of my arm that used to cradle his tiny head now reaches up past my own to tousle his hair.
Every bit of this is foreign and stretching but right. I am in awe of this man, the one he is and the one he has yet to be.
I see someone kind and generous, someone who gives so fully I worry he’ll be taken advantage of. Someone who reminds me we don’t need to be compensated to be blessed. Someone whose conscience remains taut and who feels the weight of righteousness and a longing to be faithful.
I see someone who knows he is never enough and is learning that God covers the weakest of our parts because he’s seen his mama fail and walk humbled and has met a God that loves not in spite of failures but right through them.
I see a man I love who is being molded and released into God’s hands even as my own grasp loosens.
He will grow up and out of my direct mothering.
With each year, he will stand further apart until one day he breaks free completely. And on that day, although I will grieve for the little boy who called me mommy, I will know that nothing is lost which is released into God’s hands.
And I will pray a thousand prayers that he walks with God all the days of his life.
To my darling boy/man on his 13th birthday. You are the making of me in so many ways. I love you forever and am so blessed you call me mom.