The smooth notes of Ray Lamontagne's "The Best Thing" swell on the stereo. The girls are playing with the miniature doll house and have been for hours now. I hear Danica's near pitch perfect whistle along with the bluesy tune. It's one of those rare and extremely peaceful times when the five years between Delaney and Danica do not matter, and they are simply sisters lost in a pretend world together. I am exhausted from driving to Walgreens by myself to get Mother's Day cards. It felt good to brave the car and the road and the store all by myself, but I felt a little panic too. I am coming to understand my courage comes in fits and starts. I am perhaps one of the most daring people you will meet when it comes to the ability to push myself and do almost anything independently. Most people were stunned I did most of my hospitalization in Maryland alone. I chose to be discharged alone and fly home alone last Saturday. These decisions are purposefully made in sacrifice to keep my girls here, safe, in their own beds and their own home with Dan and my family who will care for them the next best to how I would. I have consciously chosen to have less personal support so they would have more.
Delaney wanted to go to a sleepover tonight. I don't know the family well at all. It's my first weekend home, and it's Mother's Day tomorrow. I said, "No." Delaney cried and begged. I offered for her to go hang out with her friends, but I would come get her at bedtime. I told her I want her here, across the hall from me to sleep. She said the words I know are true, "Mom, I just wish you weren't so OVER protective ALL THE TIME." She's right. I am. I wasn't like this when she was young. Yes, I was vigilant about the right car seat and sunscreen and anti-tip wall anchors, but I was much more trusting of others and nurtured her free spirit. Since Danica's neck went crooked everything in our lives is a calculated risk. Delaney has paid a high price for all this. I choke on knowing for sure I may have robbed her of something I simply cannot return now.
I read Ben Carson's book "Take the Risk" again this week. I don't think I've pulled it off the shelf since 2010 when we were making huge decisions regarding Danica's surgery. I raced through his wisdom about the right questions to ask when making important life calculations, especially big medical ones. Towards the end of the book he specifically talks about the risk of parenting. He shares how developing young adults need to be allowed to have "acceptable" risk in their lives to redirect what can become dangerous risk taking behavior. I've taken this to heart as I watch my girl this weekend. Delaney is eleven going on twenty. If you know her you understand what I mean. I trust her with so much. Still, I am fiercely needing to keep her safe. Sleepovers are a danger zone for me. The first time I was exposed to pornography was in a church family's home at a sleepover. I always had a buzzing sense of inappropriateness at their house and still I never told my parents and stayed their dozens of time as a child. I know this is perhaps a silly knee jerk reaction to a personal experience, but I look back and realize that really anyone who was in our church or school was considered safe. I cannot be this trusting or naive. There are a hundred other ways I am sure I should be more protective and I'm not, but God gave me this radar, and I trust my gut on this one. I really do.
I am not like most other moms. I won't get the card thanking me for shuttling my kids to practices or cheering them on at games or performances. I won't be recognized in their graduation speech as the mom who was "always there for me." My girls haven't had big birthday parties, hand decorated cakes or lots of fun outings to explore the world. They haven't had all the lessons and social opportunities most kids in their peer group do. They haven't had a faithful church mom who is the example of weekly attendance and volunteering in programs and events. I haven't been a "normal" mom. I've been sick a lot. I've been gone for long periods of time emotionally and physically. Through all this I've been brutally honest with my girls about how insanely beautiful this life is and how much hurt necessarily runs along the same path. I talk about fear when I'm afraid. I talk about hope because I believe with all my heart His perfect love casts out fear. I write my girls on days when I mess up and fail them. I try to piece together a genuine narrative for them not only about their childhood but about my story woven into the fabric of these foundation years. I don't want them to compare their roots to that of their friends or Hollywood. I want honest expectations of sinners saved by Grace doing the best they can with what they have TODAY. In the morning I greet them, "Hello beautiful, How did you sleep?" At the end of the day I kiss them goodnight and play "Sleep Sound in Jesus." I pray for them. I pray for them. I pray for them. It's a risk, this love thing . . . this mother thing. It's a huge risk, and it is so constant I feel myself holding my breath at least half of the time.
In a beautiful little book titled "LIFT" by Kelly Corrigan she writes,
"My default answer to everything is no. As soon as I hear the inflection of inquiry in your voice, the word no forms in my mind, sometimes accompanied by a reason, often not. Can I open the mail? No. Can I wear your necklace? No. When is dinner? No. What you probably wouldn’t believe is how much I want to say yes. Yes, you can take two dozen books home from the library. Yes, you can eat the whole roll of SweeTarts. Yes, you can camp out on the deck. But the books will get lost, and SweeTarts will eventually make your tongue bleed, and if you sleep on the deck, the neighborhood raccoons will nibble on you. I often wish I could come back to life as your uncle, so I could give you more. But when you’re the mom, your whole life is holding the rope against these wily secret agents who never, ever stop trying to get you to drop your end.
This tug-of-war often obscures what’s also happening between us. I am your mother, the first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. That means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. You can’t imagine how seriously I take that—even as I fail you. Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done."