Friday began with a phone call in the kitchen. Jack was having breakfast and listening while I told his school, “Jack will be absent today because he is traveling to Baylor with us to see his brother.” After the call Jack said, “mom, you should have told them I was sick.” I asked him, “did you want me to lie?” He said, “well, to them, yes, because it isn’t a good enough reason to be absent and it won’t be good for me.” I thought about it and said, “the last time I checked, I am your mother, and I’ll decide what is good for you. And if I think it is important for you to see the big brother you miss and greet your grandma who has travelled a long way to stay with us, then I won’t hide behind a lie. I’ll deal with the consequences, and so will you.” He shrugged and said, “ok.” All the verbal lessons I’ve given him in his life about lying were backed up with my own integrity in a few short minutes while he ate a waffle and I fixed a baby bottle. I admit, I was tempted to tell the school he was sick, but I knew I had a teaching moment and I grasped it. Someday I know I’m going to listen in on this boy and he’s going to tell the truth and be ready to face the consequences because I have modeled this choice for him. I don’t really care if he gets perfect attendance this year, because he had an excellent day with his family, visiting a campus he spent much time imagining himself as a student there, someday. Maybe more kids at a young age should have a field trip to college so they know it’s not this strange place they are told to go to over and over again. I was doing his education a favor, planting seeds of motivation. His elementary principal will take the ruler to my hand, but his high school teachers will be offering me the right hand of congratulations. (I think I have mentioned before I don’t welcome being “told” what to do…not even from the Texas school district. Craig is nodding.)
Kira took her first long car trip. When we all climbed in we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Visions from our past of boys screaming for hours had our inner alarms set to ring. Am I ever thankful she had a full month of practice riding in her seat, and that she likes to watch her videos enough to forget she’s stuck in it for three hours. She was fantastic the entire day. This baby doesn’t nap and riding in the car wasn’t going to change that for her. We bundled her up and strolled her around campus, showed her the bears with fur, and stopped for the bears wearing ugg boots so they could crowd her and exclaim how beautiful she is. She got passed around by new people, visited a boy’s dorm room, and crawled for applause down a dorm hallway. She ate at a restaurant and never cried a peep. It was almost as if she knew she had to make a good impression for her grandmother who is welcoming her as her sixteenth grandchild. She accomplished her goal. It was a celebration for me to finally introduce Kira to Craig’s mom who has cried as much as I have over God’s grace in allowing this little baby from Africa to become a cherished member of our big family. Every day there is a point where I glimpse this heavenly favor, and I have to give God a big “thank you” for letting me have this “gift”. (In case you are a new visitor, our baby’s full name, Kirabo, means “gift”.)
How is Donny doing? I get asked this question all the time. I want to make a foul expression like Kira does when she has had enough to eat, and say, “I don’t know”. This is, of course, because he is a freshman boy immersed in the absolute joy of being exactly where he ought to be, involved in becoming a Young Life leader, training for triathalons, playing music with friends, involved with church, and socializing with a group of friends that we saw for ourselves are an asset for him. The only thing we could hope for is that he would remember to call us now and then. I hear from other moms of freshman boys that I am not alone in this complaint. I wave my hand sign now and then that says, “honor your mother”, and I figure he will see it one of these days. All jousting aside, I couldn’t be more relieved to see him thriving in his campus experience. I wouldn’t say that if his grades weren’t up to standard, which they are. I would pluck the hairs on his legs one by one if they weren’t.
It has been very good for him that I am so distracted with the care of Kira. Having so many children in my care gives all of them some more space to see how far their own wings can expand. This is because I can’t meddle in as much as I’d like to with each one of them because I’m so occupied with the care of a baby. I think when they are all kissing her cheek they are also whispering in her ear, “thanks for keeping mom so busy because she doesn’t point her finger at me as often as she used to do.” I know I see Donny as a more independent adult than I did before Kira sat in my lap. Somehow it is easier for me to want him to make his own decisions and mistakes now, where before it gave me a panic and required a brick wall to hold me back from helping him out. (that would be Craig playing the brick wall)
Donny said something interesting at dinner. “I hear so many stories from the friends I make here about their family life, and I realize how good my parents have been for me. I think my parents have the most disciplined lives I have ever seen. I never realized it before. And I really want to be like that.” I think I teetered off balance in the moments after he said that.
I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I want to understand what he means by disciplined. I wonder if he means that we do what we say, we don’t just say it. Just as I told Jack’s school the truth about his absence. If I believe something, I will follow up with consistent actions. My children are watching my life more closely than they are listening to me. What a relief. What a scary thought. I realize again that I don’t have titles, or awards, an impressive career, or a fat income to show him, I only have God working in me. Eighteen years ago I became a parent. This role is the single most important way for me to serve God and become all I am meant to be in this life. It has generational effects I’ll never be able to measure. And the rewards, well I learned today sometimes those kids grow up and say something casually at dinner that I’ll never forget. It might not be hanging on my wall, or deposited in the bank, but it has a place of honor in my heart. It was worth it, all those years wrangling that boy into a man. It is why I’m not afraid to go back to the baby stage and do it all again. And I can wonder what she will say about me when I visit her at college some day. (and yes, I know how fast it goes. Oh, I know.)