As parents our hearts are overjoyed when our kids are happy. The opposite is also true. When our kids struggle we feel our hearts breaking. Because of this, parenting can be a roller-coaster ride of emotion. It is not for the faint of heart. If you have more than one child, multiply the wild ride by the number of kids you have and fasten your seat belt. This bond we have with our kids makes pain as intense as if we are experiencing it ourselves, and the joy feels as if our hearts will explode.
The funny thing is…they have no idea how much their well-being affects us. We are deemed silly for both kinds of tears…joyous and sorrowful. We are labeled “emotional” or “melodramatic.” If we could tone it down or pull it back we would do so. We have learned our feelings are not always welcome and that sometimes they are downright embarrassing to our kids. They would never know this…but we do hold back more than anyone realizes. I would love nothing more than to do cartwheels on the football field when Peter crosses the stage on Friday night to graduate from high school, but I will settle for clapping and tears of pride that pool in my eyes…and maybe one or two that spill over before I can wipe them away.
I wish that when Hannah got off that plane next week I could just melt onto the floor in a puddle of happy tears that I know could flow into a small lake if I let them go unchecked. Sometimes tears of relief that they are once again within my embrace are the hardest to hold back. I cannot promise this will not still happen, but I will try to maintain my composure to a long hug and an acceptable flow of momentary tears.
When Aaron turns 23 on Monday, I would love to spend hours talking about life and all that he has meant to me, instead I will settle for a hug and give him a card with some money in it. I will put my sappy, sentiment to the side and be glad that he came home to see me. I have learned that restraint and self-control get me fewer eye-rolls. There are times I would love to scream, “DON’T GO THAT WAY!” because I know where “that way” leads. Instead I stand back silently…and it takes everything in me to do so. I try to advise, cheer, commiserate, and whatever else this role of a parent does to show my care for them. I have also found that the older I get, the less I care how my expressions of love come across.
I have tried to quench, and squelch them. I have tried to stuff it all down and pretend that I don’t care about their decisions. I am casual on the outside in an effort to let them make their own choices for the better or worse. I watch them struggle with mistakes and triumph when things are working in their favor. On the outside, I am an observer…a counselor that offers suggestions from time to time. But on the inside…where my heart beats with the lives that once grew inside of me… I am doing all manner of celebrating…dancing, cheering, whooping it up… which will only show on my face with smiles and tears. On the inside…when things aren’t going so great…I am cringing, formulating impossible ways to rescue, and finding that crying out to God is the only action I can take. In my secret place of prayer I can cry out, and pour out all manner of emotion. All of this causes me to pause and wonder. (Doesn’t everything? haha)
I wonder if God feels this way about his children. I wonder if he sits back when we are choosing. I wonder if he cheers and jumps for joy, or cries tears when we move on without him. I wonder how I affect his heart on a day to day basis. I have a feeling…since we are created in his image…that he understands us better than we understand ourselves. I have a feeling that he feels it all deeply, as if our pain, our joy, was happening to him. I have a feeling that he loves us more than we can comprehend…until we have children. Then we totally get it.