I’m Listening

How did you learn those really important life lessons growing up?

For me some of the best lessons were shared while just tagging along whether it be riding shotgun in Daddy’s pickup truck, grocery shopping with Mama, or trailing slightly behind the older neighborhood kids. 

Some lessons can only be learned the hard way.  

Make sure you know how to shift the gears on your big sister’s 10-speed bike BEFORE you assume the descent of the neighborhood hill.

Don’t rattle a hornet’s nest. Even with a big stick.

And no matter how cool you think you are, never accept a dare that results in a hefty dose of ipecac syrup.  

While real world experiences folded and molded me, I am also of the generation who learned a lot about life watching ABC After School Specials, the Love Boat and Battle of the Network Stars.  Oh for the love of roller skates, knee socks and athletic shorts!

Yet I now find myself in the epicenter of a real seismic shift, one that finds me learning perhaps the greatest lessons from the heptad of humans I created. Like the legions of parents before me, I have spent countless hours trying to spare my offspring the pain of skinned knees, the loneliness of a latchkey, and the brokenness of a broken heart. I haven’t quite flown to helicopter heights as I believe that sometimes it takes that broken heart to heal you, but I have provided soft landings. Now perhaps the lessons they are teaching me are the kind of soft landings that I need.

I will not mention names as to protect the innocent, and not so innocent, but my kids are teaching me that there is a lot of life to live and a lot of love to leave behind.

The lessons came early. I remember all-to-well the trip home from the hospital with our first baby. Despite his carseat being installed and reinstalled like I was training for a third-grade tug of war on Field Day, those straps could not rival this Mama riding beside him in the backseat on the day we brought him home, and a Dad driving at a snail’s pace wishing we could have rented an armored truck. 

Life became real, real fast. 

I was now responsible for a life other than my own. The hefty nine pounds sleeping in that carseat showed me how to truly love someone more than I love myself.  

And it got even better. We went on to bring home six more tiny humans, each with a mom all-but-laying across their carseat and a dad who assumed a driving position in the slow lane. Our cargo was just that precious.

And the lessons keep coming.

My children have shown me the value of reading with them especially when they were too young to read the words themselves.They have taught me that mud puddles are best enjoyed with your grandpa, because unlike your mother, he laughs harder the muddier you get. The kids have shown me the gift of perseverance, in the classroom, on the court, and at bedtime. I have come to believe that everybody needs another five minutes to brush their teeth and say their prayers. 

No doubt our house-full continues to change me. I don’t like a quiet house as much as I used to. I have learned to let go as they pull out of the driveway behind a wheel of their own, as they wave goodbye from their college dorm window, as they move two hours away to start a new job, or start down a career path that will put their life on the line every single day.

My kids are showing me that sometimes putting your fears in the backseat and taking risks can lead us to becoming the best of who we were always meant to be.

Run for student council. Try out for a new sport. Make new friends. Take the really hard class. Ignore the chatter. Say yes to the first date or decide it’s time to call it quits.

I’ve come to the realization that there is an element of risk in everything we do. 

Will I get hurt? Will I be embarrassed? Will I fail? Will I be accepted? Will I be happy?  Will I have regrets?

How many opportunities have I missed simply because I chose to play it safe?

As one who has never really appreciated the view from the ledge, I have rarely embraced the risk. Self-preservation has always been pretty high on my to-do list. I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters, bungee-jumping or sky diving. Unfortunately a few relationships gave me the same feeling. My idea of living life on the edge was swimming in a lake where I couldn’t see the bottom. 

And as a shocker for some, I used to keep my thoughts to myself.

Yet within the swirl of my epicenter, my children are teaching me how to overcome the fear and what if’s to embrace the risk. I swim in the ocean despite my thoughts of great white sharks and sea serpents. I ride a roller coaster with the kiddos because everyone knows that mom’s arms are the best back up for those steel bars holding them in their seats. And perhaps the hardest of all has been learning to be vulnerable, to let go, and share the tiny pieces of me: the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are lessons in all of them.

While I still have some important things to teach my kids, I’m sure they have much more to teach me. Mama is listening. 

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