Dear Son…A Post-Christmas Letter

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Dear Son:

It is three days past Christmas and yet the varied strands of lights on our tree still burn brightly, as if they truly were soft candle-light glow. I write you tonight, pensively.  For there has been much on my mind since the mad scramble of Christmas morning.  There has been much weighing on me.

Your sweet gift to us all on Christmas Day- gladly bestowed as we impatiently sat on a crowded bed, remnants of Christmas stockings and wrapping paper strewn all around. Glitter from your sister’s pajamas. Candles in the window.  And there you came, bearing gifts.  Bringing to us those sweetest of presents.  The packages done up with a single letter attached to each, a candy cane seal.  Those letters for us- your family, they have given me much to think about.  Those beautiful letters.  All so heartfelt, so beautifully penned.  For penned they were, the old-fashioned way.  Your sweet boyish script.

Son, in a world bent on celebrating Christmas in its own way, it is hard to push against the tides and do it different.  For Christmas has become something gaudier than it was intended to be.  Too bright.  Too shining.  Christmas is just sometimes too much of everything.  And sometimes in the midst of lavish excess, it is the simplest of reminders that brings us back to the truth.  To the truth about Christmas. To the truth about life- it’s past purpose, present possibility and future promise.

When I opened your letter firmly fixed to the front of that fragrant bottle of Stress Relief Body Wash And Bubble Bath (you know me well), my heart did a sudden lurch.  Because sometimes the line between reality and dream is so fine.  Sometimes the present here and now seems so elusive. That I instantly thought to myself, “Oh no.  Something really bad is about to happen.  He has written us such heartfelt prose- that it must mean the foreboding sign has been given.”  I am very fragile at Christmas.  And so very aware, knowing as I do- that another mother sits weeping by her Christmas tree, no boy there now to sling an arm about her neck.

I read that letter. And I wept inwardly.  You know me so well.  Know us all so well, as those letters to each member of our family indicate.  They were spot on.  In Grammie’s words, ‘you nailed it’.  Can you imagine her saying that?  She did.

Sometimes I wonder why me.  Why this ordinary girl?  Why have I been blessed so lavishly?  Why have I been given so very much, such precious gifts?  You four children.  Your father.  Our family.  This home- the far-flung fields bordered by our wooded lot, grandly spiced with fragrant hemlock. Shadowed by grand, ancient trees. Why this for me?  Why, when there are so many who have little to nothing?  Mothers who are aching for a child?  Children aching for a mother?

A world in such desperate need.

And this line of thinking can be burdensome- overwhelming.  Constricting.  I feel it smothering me. Alive. Weighing me down in such a way that it nearly incapacitates.  Because I don’t understand the why’s.  I only know ‘what is’.

According to the Gospels, to whom much has been given, much will be expected.  I have been excessively blessed.  And the expectations are so very great.

I may not ever fully understand the richness of His mercy, the lavish unfolding of His grace.  I might not understand why He chose me to be your Mama- why He chose me to lend me four of His most Precious.  And I am tenderly aware that you Four are on lend- you are not mine to keep.  You are His.  And while you are in my care, I pray that I might walk worthy of the calling of which I have been called. Your Mama.

You will never understand what it is to be a Mother- there is something so primeval about this place in which I find myself right now.  But you might someday be a father.  And you will know a parent’s love.  You will come to understand that nothing tangible in this world- no Christmas present, no bling or shiny package could ever take the place of that which is most precious: our children.  And in understanding this, you might come to know that God’s love extends to all His children of every colour and every race. That His love is bigger than any evil this fallen world can proffer.  His love extends.  It reaches.  It surpasses.  It outpaces.  It goes before.  And it always was and always will be.

I pray that you might come to know His love, a love bigger than any passing fancy we might have our eye on in the here-and-now.  Because His love, like His time- it is not like ours’.  His desire, not like our desire.  His understanding, not like our understanding.  And therefore His love undeniably not like our love. Nor can it ever be.

Those letters.  They reminded me of something.  It is not how much we’ve been given- how extensive the blessing.  How high the windfall.  It is what you do with it all.  It is what you make out of it.

For all of life is but a gift- from the tiniest of breaths to the greatest gust of wind.  It is all grace.  It is all blessing.  And I am so grateful to have been given you- on lend, for you are such an extravagant gift.  And so extraordinary.

I want to thank you for reminding me yet again that we don’t know how good we have it sometimes.  And I never wish to wait until that gift is gone to say thank you.  Thank you for everything you are.  For all you have taught me.  Thank you for giving to me the sweetest of gifts- a priceless offering that money can’t buy. Thank you for your words, your life and your spirit.  You are very loved.

Love,

Your Mom

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The Joys of Parenting an Eleven-year old Boy…

Dear Son:

You are soundly sleeping.  I am in the room below your’s, loudly clicking keys on an already outdated keyboard, while outside the dog barks.  Otherwise, it is quiet.

I am thinking about last night.  It was fun going to visit Grammie and Grampie and taking them down supper.  Grampie looks better after his surgery, and Grammie’s cones of icecream are the best.  Isn’t that the truth!  It was great listening to you talk to them about things as well.  I watched your face when you didn’t notice me looking, and I could see sincerity and interest.  I love that about you.

Afterwards, when we went to get treats at the store, I loved taking you all in to choose what you each liked best.  You are all such different little people from each other, your sisters and you.  Your treat was a 1L Pepsi and an Oh Henry bar. I loved how the lady behind us in the check-out said my children all look like me.  I am proud of my three beautiful girls and my strong, handsome boy.

Is it embarrassing being told you look like your mother?

On the way into the store, you told me so enthusiastically how I was the greatest mom, and Daddy and I were the best parents ever.  Lots of love for the kindness we showed. You gave me a big hug.

And yet.  Some things are so easily forgotten.

Why is it we think our parents are the greatest when they do something we like, but the minute they are not serving our interests in exactly the way we like, our parents are suddenly the meanest parents ever and totally unfair?  As often as I have heard the words, “You’re the greatest, Mom,” I’ve also heard the words, “You’re the worst.”

Son, I want you to know I love you.  My love will not change for you.  Whether I make the decisions you like and whether I please you or not, my love remains.  Know this: sometimes love is tough.  It isn’t always sweet and light.  Tough love means this: we make hard decisions that have the greatest benefits for the longest term.  It’s not fun hearing the word “no” now, but it may pave the way for responsibility and trust and a “yes” later.

I know it is hard to make promises, but will you do this for me?  Next time I do something that pleases you, don’t make a big deal of it.  Tuck that little “thank-you” moment away for later.  When the time comes that you are annoyed by a decision I’ve made in your best interest, bring that little bit of gratitude out of your back pocket, the one you saved for just a time as this, and remember, sometimes I do give you exactly what you’ve asked for.  And while you may not be getting that this time, it will work out again that your Mama says “yes”.

I know you can’t understand every reason for every decision your Daddy and I make about your life, but the time will come very soon when we will let go, and you will be making decisions, hard decision, about your life and how it unfolds.  I hope the decisions we make at this time in your life, will give you all the tools you need in the not-so-distant future to say  “yes” and “no.”  And to do so at the right times and for the right reasons.

We are your parents, for better and for worse: we have four children, and we have counted you as one of those blessings.  What other parents do and the decisions they make is not my concern.  I am not always going to say the same “yes” as another friend’s Mom says.  Neither will I say the same “no”.  Don’t compare me to your friend’s parents unless you are willing to take those parents for everything they are and everything they say.  I cannot be someone else, and neither can you.  I am who I am, and you are you, too.  We are stuck with each other, and it can be as good as we make it.  In fact, it can be better.  It can be the very best.

I love you, Son.  And yes, I always will. I’ll love you forever,  and you know I’ll like you for always. I promise.

But, no, you cannot use Facebook until you are 13.  End of story, that’s all she wrote.  And that’s my final word about that.

Love you,

Mom