For 40 long weeks, we feel their growing little bodies inside of ours. We trust our bodies to protect and nourish theirs. We do everything in our power to help them grow healthy, strong and capable of facing the world.
For some, the weeks are much longer as you await news of a child in need of a home – your home. And the protection you feel over this baby is the same.
When our children arrive into our arms, we immediately feel an ache. It’s an ache of a love so deep we cannot imagine how we existed before these little lives graced us with theirs.
What a gift it is to be a mother.
The ache of motherhood shows up with every heal and finger stick in those first few weeks of life. For some, those pokes are more numerous and painful as we watch our little ones endure what is needed to get or keep them healthy in the neonatal intensive care unit.
We can only protect them so much. There is a certain amount of resilience our babies need even when they are just weeks old. And the need our kids have for that resilience reminds us of our ache.
The ache grows with each day, hour and minute as we realize just how much we cannot do to protect them… first from tummy aches and then from bumps as they learn to crawl, then walk, then run.
Eventually we realize we cannot protect them from harsh words, scary news and heart breaks. We cannot earn their grades or positions on athletic teams. We cannot make their choices or pick their friends.
Just as we have failed and learned, our kids will do the same.
While we witness heart breaks, broken bones and disappointments, all we can do is comfort our kids and help them process what they are experiencing so they can react well to whatever life throws in their path.
We can teach them – train them, even – to face an uncertain world that is certain to bring them both joy and sadness, friendships and heart breaks, love, laughter and we pray, a faith that is deeper than any adversity they will encounter.
These loves of ours develop independent minds and long to be separate from us as they grow into young adults. And so our hearts ache a little deeper because this separateness makes us remember the depth of our love for and sense of protection over them.
The hard part – perhaps the hardest part – is knowing that despite our ache and longing to protect them from every hurt they will experience, it truly is our job to work ourselves out of one.
Teaching our kids to grow into responsible, confident, independent and influential adults ironically causes our ache to grow deeper; after all, it means they grow away from us, spending less time snuggling and more time engaging in their world.
But along with our growing ache comes a pride and the biggest heart smile we have ever known as we witness the lives of our children intersecting with the lives of others in a way that shows kindness, responsibility and a desire make a positive difference.
The ache is a necessary part of motherhood. It is like another pulse indicating we are alive. As long as we live, our love for our children will be deeply felt right where that ache resides.
And the beauty of being mothers who teach our kids to live on their own, is that our kids grow from needing our care to wanting our company as we give them the freedom to fly into the world with what knowledge, wisdom and faith they have gained while living under our roof.
I know of this only from the perspective of being a daughter of a mother who raised me with resilience, faith and a never-give-up kind of attitude. I am thankful to now call my mom a friend. While we have our moments of me still needing separateness and her wanting to protect me, she raised me to live responsibly and with love. What she gave me was more than enough, and I am grateful.
We are teaching our kids well and TRUSTING that the same resilience that got us through will also get our kids through. The same God who has been good to us through the good and hard times will do the same for them.