Holding Things Loosely
by Kim Pillow
When Mary Dudley was in kindergarten, I can vividly remember Jan Locke with her glowing smile telling me one day in the Pillow carpool line , “Kim, enjoy it, it flies by so fast!” Jan’s daughter was a senior in high school at the time. I pulled off and thought, “Psh, I’ve got sooo many years left.” Now I know what many of you know, as the years go by, they do go by faster and faster. Jan was imparting years of wisdom to a weary mother, I wish I had listened better. Life for us these past three years has been full of adjustments.
Needless to say, 2018 has been a big year. Stephen and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, Mary Dudley turned 21, and Baylor turned 18 and graduated from high school. In a few weeks, we will take him to college…I’m left wondering where the time has gone! It is very surreal to me. After all, Stephen and I vowed in front of witnesses to walk through this life together and as we pass all of these milestones, I am thinking, “Look we are really living this life together!” I am so thankful for many things. Gratitude has enabled me to get through this period of adjustment. Looking at what we have been given and not what I have lost has been invaluable. The Lord has been teaching me to hold on loosely and to die to myself. Stephen and I constantly get comments, “WOW, yall are empty nesters!” and somehow deep in my soul the mother monster wants to scream, “But I want my children back with us!” This has been the first summer both children are working elsewhere. No one is home. While that may sound like heaven to a mother of small children…. I can assure you the silence of an empty home can take your breath away. I want my children’s physical presence. I want to all be in the car together listening to music; I love us four all together. But in the same vein, I am so happy for them both. They are both so happy and thriving that it comforts my heart. I have to remind myself that this is what we raised them for: to leave and become adults. Letting go of the control of their lives has been a slow process. When both learned to drive, I thought was going to hyperventilate. It was really hard for me. I had to confess how arrogant my thoughts were…… that if they were with me they were so safe and that without me at the helm they were in deep peril. I was walking around like a crazy woman freaking out to anyone who would listen, “My child is driving!” When Baylor started driving to and from Chattanooga, I almost couldn’t take it. Although I seemed very put together on the outside , I was a basket case on the inside. What was exposed was that my trust was in ME. I had little faith. I had to confess to the Lord that I wasn’t leaning on him for their protection; I believed they were only safe if they were with me. He shows us such mercy. All the hours I spent worrying and talking to whoever would listen, I should have been holding on and trusting the Lord with their lives. I could tell you the Sunday School answer with my mouth that God is sovereign over all things but my heart was acting as if it was all up to me. This is just one example of how you have to relinquish control and allow them to grow up; the ‘mothering’ ends. You have to give up the very things you don’t want to give up. It is hard.
Everything is safe which is committed to our God. So I have been preaching to myself "This is about your children; this is not about you." Letting them go is love. As a good friend said, “Kim, keeping them here would be a disservice to their spirits.” So I have had to release my tight grip and trust in God’s plan. In Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Keller states the path to Christian Joy is self forgetfulness. Simply put, it is thinking of yourself less. This is gospel-humility. Their life is not about me.
This has been the lesson God has been teaching me from the get-go of mothering - it’s not about you. Anyone that knows me has heard my story of when I had my first child. To say it was a turn-your-life-upside-down moment was an understatement. I was 25 and had no clue about babies. Not. A. Clue. After laboring two days and ending up under general anesthesia for an emergency C-Section, Stephen and I begged to leave the hospital alone at 7:00 pm to go home and “rest” from the ordeal. (Bless our hearts - Ha!) Mary Dudley screamed all night and by 5:00 am the next morning Stephen was in tears and we all wanted to be admitted back into the hospital. We needed HELP! The first six months were “Boot Camp” as I have refereed back to it so many times. We were overwhelmed, I didn’t even know babies didn’t sleep through the night. I had never in my life been so sleep deprived and couldn’t see an end in sight. All that to say, I can laugh now at our stupidity and lack of preparation for this. After all its been 21 long years ago, but what is so surreal about having children is that you hold them so tight in those early years and they are so very dependent on you for everything, but what you can’t see is that the whole time you are raising them to leave you and begin their own life. You go from commander in chief, controlling what they eat, who they play with, where they go to camp, what their haircut looks like, everything, to watching them move into college and go their own way. It’s what life up to this point has been all about. Independence, Adulthood, they are bittersweet moments. Parenting is the hardest thing that Stephen and I have done. We prayed and prayed, sought wise council, and read numerous parenting books. I never wanted to be as unprepared as we were having our first. However, nothing can prepare you for the moment when you hug your child goodbye as they leave to go off to college. You know in your head that this is gong to happen but in your heart they seem like they are still needing you to tie their shoes….where did it all go? In the blink of an eye. My encouragement for young parents is to live in the moment, don’t wish each stage away. Deal with things, don’t let little sins slide. It does matter in the end. Make decisions based on living a right life before God. Die to yourself. Be grateful for all the blessings you do have. Realize phases are just a point in time. Most times they really do pass.
Be humble. Repent to one another. Say “I am sorry!” Love big.
This poem has summed up my thoughts of parenting so well. In her book, Splinters in My Pride, Marla Zdnek says:
It was hard to let you go:
To watch womanhood reach out and snatch you
Long before the mothering was done.
But if God listened to mothers and gave in,
Would the time for turning loose of daughters ever come?
It was hard when you went away-
For how was I to know
The serendipity of letting go
Would be seeing you come home again
And meeting in a new way
Woman to Woman ----
Friend to friend.
This is the blessing. They leave as your children but they come home as your friends. What a blessing this stage is; the empty nest becomes the family of friends! The love never ends.