I’m convinced that sons require multiple labors: as infants, as boys, and as young men. When a son comes forth, he tears off a piece of your heart in his tiny clenched fist.
Then you spend a lifetime trying to find that missing piece so you can fit it into his destiny and feel at peace and whole once again.
We mothers struggle to keep our sons whole during childhood. We agonize over their adolescence, and then we feel compelled to push them forward into manhood.
Recently, I had a dream about the worst day of my life, the day I left my son’s father. In the dream, my son watched in horror as his world shattered. I saw the agony in his face and the fear in his eyes, so I placed my hands firmly on his shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and calmly said, “Trust me to take care of myself and to take care of you.”
Then I wrapped that little frightened boy in my arms. As we both wept, he slowly transformed into an adolescent, then a teen, and finally into a young man.
Yes, mothers and sons…the greatest gift we can give them is to take care of ourselves so they don’t feel like they have to. The second gift is to take care of them so they can concentrate on growing into their potential. And the third is to show them how to take care of themselves.
Knowing a bit about my son’s difficult childhood, you can better imagine how overwhelmed I was when I read his tribute to me tucked in his application essay for the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I wept when I read what he witnessed in the midst of our difficulties as a single-parent family “…she embodied the virtues I now hold most dear: humility, patience, honesty, dedication, and passion. At the time she was just a single mother doing her best to raise a family. She didn’t realize that during the process she taught me how to become a man.”
I cry whenever I reread this part because I was so convinced that I had failed him.
Mothers and sons…sometimes we co-exist peacefully. At other times, we fight ruthlessly so they can defy us and find their own identity. We pray late into the night, endlessly ponder their futures, and prostrate ourselves on floors and beg God to have His way with them. We weep over their welfare and give our best to help them discover their worth. They may leave us to roam the world, but we keep their memory tucked safely in our hearts.
Recently, Josiah returned from seven months of working and traveling overseas. I fell into his arms and held him closely.
All of my worry disappeared. I drank in the sweet nectar of having him close for a day. Yes, I mused, he has grown into a fine young man who will change his world.
So mothers hold onto your dreams for your sons…model courage in the face of adversity, belief when overwhelmed with fear, and endurance when you want to quit. Although your heart may, at times, seem broken, remember that there is a little boy inside of your son who needs to see an example of what it means to become a man.