It's been an emotional roller coaster for me lately. I don't know how most mother's feel when their children grow up, but I imagine it's at least similar for all of us.
Stephen was given a date to report for boot camp. Six months. It felt like a death sentence to me. That's all I had left with him--just six months. I know I'll see him again after that, but it will never be the same again. He's not going off to college where he'll then be home again for Christmas breaks and summers. He's going off to become a man. He'll be responsible for himself from that time on. He will hopefully come home for visits, but he won't live here anymore.
And yet I'm so happy for him. He is definately happier these days. I believe that people of all ages need to have a purpose and his was hockey before we moved here. Hockey was taken away and left him with nothing. He now has a purpose again and he's happy. That is definately a good thing.
Yet it won't be like we can even save him a bed for when he does come to visit. There won't be "Stephen's room." It won't become an empty guest bed or a place for him to crash when he visits. He'll truly be a visitor when he comes back because his bed will have been given to the next kid. At best we'll have a guest room for him to stay in.
I'm so proud of him. The path he's choosing is a good one for him. I know he'll be a good soldier. He loves our country and is happy to get to play a part in defending our rights.
When we dropped him off at the recruiter's office to go to the MEP station to enlist, I must have looked sad as I walked back to the van. Faith took one look at me and said, "Just think about his temper tantrums, Mom." I laughed and that helped.
Then we had all the stress and worry of what mos he would choose and if he would ever get to choose one. I just focused on what was best for him and muddled through life that weekend. I have a lot more gray hair than I did before. When that was all over, it all hit me.
I cried myself to sleep one night last week. The kids were in bed, Roger was in bed and the house was quiet. I was alone with my thoughts which is really rare. There were no distractions and nothing to stop the ache--the heartache that I was totally unprepared to feel. Everyone tells you the terrible twos are hard. They warn you that the teen age years are hard. Neither of those were really all that bad. But nobody warned me that when you have to let them go, it's the hardest thing EVER.
I kept picturing him as a toddler needing me to keep him safe so he wouldn't break his neck. I pictured him going off to kindergarten and needing me to get him there and back safely. I kept picturing all these different stages of his life where he needed me and I was there. Now he's going to move on and it's time to stop needing me daily. That's a good thing and I pray I did an adequate job so he won't make a ton of horrible mistakes. But I know that he'll make mistakes. He's human, you know. And he'll muddle through them just like the rest of us. I can deal with that. But I won't get to see him. I really love this young man that turned my life around so long ago. The boy who taught me what love really is. I'll miss his smile. I'll probably even miss his faults. It will be a treat to get to see him again, but it won't be the same.
So here I am already missing him so terribly and he's not even gone yet. I still need to discipline him and I have such a short time to finish teaching him anything I think he needs to know.
Discipline is hard now. I can see the huge importance of it. It's my last chance to teach him! But yet, I want to be so careful not to drive him away emotionally. I don't want to make him so mad that he doesn't forgive before he goes. But it's not my job to be his friend. I want more than ever to be sure he has a relationship with Jesus. I was there when he was saved, but is that really enough? His life will go so much smoother if he'll follow Christ. I see that, but does he? We can't make our children follow the paths we want them to follow. I have to just keep praying and giving it all to Jesus and trust that He will lead Stephen in the right direction. It's so scary and so hard. Just because it all matters so much.
And the thing that really made me cry was the realization that I have to go through this NINE times! Raising nine kids is no picnic, but it's not that hard. There are so many rewards each day that make it all worth it. But now I'm realizing that I have to say goodbye to nine kids and let them all grow up! Yikes! I'll be getting a lot of gray hairs over this I guess.
The time really does fly by. I've got to say that changing diapers for the almost 1 year old, struggling through potty training with the almost 3 year old, trying to find time to teach a 4 1/2 year old to read, dealing with the craziness of a 7 yr old boy and the moodiness of 9, 11, and almost 13 yr old girls, and keeping up with the over-my-head thoughts of a 15 yr old young man all seem to take on a new meaning as I watch my 17 yr old prepare to fly out of the nest. An empty nest is quite a way off yet. But it feels more like a reality now.
Hmm. Here goes that roller coaster back up again with this thought. I may be able to have a few more uninterrupted conversations with Roger some day! And once the nest is empty, most likely there will be a grandchild or two that will come visit. Maybe there is a silver lining in this cloud after all.