On Wednesday we dropped our oldest daughter, Acacia, off at her very first overnight camp with the youth group at our church. 4 nights away from home and she made the decision to go this year even though she knows no one her age yet at youth group. (Insert all the anxious Mom feelings here.)
Over the last few weeks she has mostly been excited with a few nerves mixed in. There’s been a few questions from her like:
What do you think the bathrooms are going to be like? Do you think I’ll be able to get a bottom bunk? Do you think I’ll be able to make friends with anyone? Will I be able to call you if I need to?
The last question made me pause because I didn’t anticipate her thinking about needing to call us. I told her there would definitely be a way to call us if she needed to but then asked her why she thought she’d need to. Her response:
I don’t know. I know we’ve been apart before but we’ve always called to talk to each other every night.
This type of conversation only added to my vacillating between being anxious and giving my anxious thoughts over to God. Asking Him to give her a genuine encounter with Him, for her to know she is loved by the Most High King and that He cherishes her down to the very core of who she is. I’ve asked Him to help her make friends, to have a good camp experience, to have fun. But still my nerves and anxiety remained.
When we got to camp to drop her off I could see her nervousness starting to kick in. We got her checked in, grabbed her bag, she gave Jason, my husband, a big good bye hug and we went off to find her room. She picked her bed (bottom bunk), put her stuff down and met her leader who told us everyone was hanging out in the Rec Center until dinner.
I asked Acacia if she wanted me to walk her down to the Rec Center to make sure she could find it — wrong suggestion! Of course she didn’t want me to do that! Duh, Mom!
I felt myself hovering and smothering but I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to make sure she was ok and for all of her strong-willed, independent, tough attitude…I could see the nervousness written all over her face. And for all of my strong-willed, independent tough attitude…the mama bird in me wasn’t ready for my baby girl to test her wings without me right by her side to pick her up if she fell.
So I asked her for the 100th time if she was ok and she huffed:
Yes Mom. Can you just go?
I felt every bit of her irritation. I know she was nervous and overwhelmed but if we’re being honest…it hurt to be brushed off like that.
Everything inside of me wanted to gather her up into a huge hug. To have her hug me hard and say she was going to miss me. I wanted to infuse every bit of my love, my strength, my courage and every prayer I have ever prayed for her into her with my arms wrapped tight around her. I wanted her to need that from me and it hurt that she didn’t.
She gave me a quick hug, a hurried Bye-I-love-you, then turned around and walked away.
I couldn’t stand there and watch her walk away. So I turned around and walked back to our van. Tears welling up in my eyes and hurt overflowing in my heart.
With every step I took that tension between us felt like it was being stretched thin until I could feel it about to snap inside me. I knew if I turned around I would see my heartstrings tenuously and weakly trembling all the way back down that road attached to my precious girl.
I finally did turn around when I got to our van and there she was, still walking all by herself. She looked so small and alone.
I cried on the way home. I went for a short walk before dinner and cried some more. I went on another walk after dinner and cried even more. Because letting go is hard and the pretty much the stupidest thing ever.
On my 2nd walk I was taking time to pray and process all my feelings. I kept thinking about our goodbye and I was asking God to help me not take it so personally, to not let it hurt so much. I had been comparing Acacia’s goodbye with Jason to mine. She had given him a big hug with a huge smile on her face. All sunshine and rainbows for him but thunderclouds and rain drops for me.
Why is it like that, God? So easy and loving with her Dad but all irritated and “you don’t get it Mom” with me? God, it makes me feel like she doesn’t even need me and I hate feeling like I don’t count.
As soon as the words crossed my lips I felt God speak to my heart:
She doesn’t need you like she needs her dad. She needs YOU for all the things YOU give her in ways that only YOU can.
Who taught her to shave her legs on the night before camp? I did.
Who is reading devotionals with her and talking to her about puberty and dating and what it means to be a young woman of God? I am.
Who has helped her be confidant, have a voice, know who she is, believe in herself and encourage her to be brave? Me, I guess? But her dad does all those things too, so…..
Yes, he gives to her all those things in a Dad’s way and you give to her as a Mom. You didn’t need one last hug to give her all your love, strength, courage & prayers because you’ve already been giving her those things for the last 11 years. And it counts. It matters.
My heart was flooded with gratitude for all of God’s wisdom and encouragement in that moment. And then He blessed me with more of it again this morning when my Mom called to give me a bit of her own insight.
I had shared with her yesterday how hard the drop off and good bye with Acacia were for me. She told me this morning as she was thinking that over she was reminded that every time Acacia spends the night at her house she’ll say, “I miss my mom” or ask if she can call me. From my mom’s perspective, Acacia wasn’t brushing me off at the camp drop off because she couldn’t get rid of me fast enough but possibly because she knew it was going to be just as hard for her as it was for me to say good bye. That in order to be able to separate from me without falling apart she had to put her thick skin on and be tough.
This perspective helped ease the hurt in my heart and gave me permission to stop beating myself up over all the ways I’ve messed up or could’ve done better. Maybe the connection Acacia and I have is deeper than I realize. Maybe all of the battling we do is because we are so alike. Maybe God actually did give Acacia the exact Mom He knew she would need. Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job as a Mom after all.
And maybe these times and these letting go experiences are exactly what we are raising her to do. To branch out of the nest and test her wings. These moments that give her the opportunity to learn and grow and mature without us by her side but with all of our love and strength and courage and prayers inside her.
If we get this right we’ll be working ourselves right out of a job. And I want to get it right.
I don’t want to limit my kids and make them miss opportunities because it’s hard to let go. I also don’t want to keep under valuing who I am as a Mom and how important my role is every single day to prepare my kids for whatever their future holds.
I know that although our kids don’t often show it, they are thankful for what we do and how we give. Maybe they can’t see it now or know how to express it but when they’re older they’ll look back and see a distinct set of Mom fingerprints all over their hearts.
Are there other moms out there who question if what they’re doing counts for anything or really matters all that much?
We all tell ourselves it’s going to be worth it one day…when they’re older…when they graduate…when they move out.
If we want it to be worth it “one day”, we have to value the work we’re doing now. Today. It counts for something and it matters.
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