Wednesday, April 2

Anticipate Getting The Keys

Dear Jacob,

I'm proud of you.

I wanted there to be a record of me saying this. I wanted you to have that moment of staring at words on a page that catch your breath a bit.  And I know that there's usually a follow up question in one's head when they hear this phrase, "Proud of me for what?"  So, I'm going to tell you.

I'm proud of the way you asked some important questions yesterday; of the way you acknowledged that you know exactly where your biggest weakness lies. It was impressive to hear you ask the questions that you did and to hear you do it with maturity and true concern.  You were in a state of openness to learn and you made that time into everything you needed it to be. You did it with respectfulness and civility. I don't know if you saw me smiling, but I was.

I'm proud of the way that you are taking joy in your abilities. You've worked so hard to get your grades up. I'll say it again -- you've worked so hard and it's doing what you want it to do.  It's doing what we all want it to do: freeing you to become the man you're designed to become. You have to know that I don't care about grades as much as I care that you care about learning. A disinterested student is more of a concern to me than a C-level striver. Dad and I are always looking ahead to your future and I'm glad that you're moving toward your future too.

I'm proud of the way that you have taught yourself guitar. You're really good and I love to hear you play.  I love to hear the technical skill you've gained and I love that you can play with friends and perform without nerves (seemingly).  I think this is one of the things you were designed to do.  You have always been rhythmic and musical and I love that you're using this gift to its fulfillment. If music does anything, it grows your heart and it unifies people with a language we can all speak.

I'm proud of you for being responsible to get yourself places.  For walking to youth group, for riding RTD responsibly, for getting yourself back to school when you had to run back for something you forgot.  I know that I can trust you to do the right thing when you're moving about the city.  I know that you'll call me when you get there, that you'll be respectful to people around you. That you'll follow the rules.  This is a great sign of maturity and I have no problem saying, "See you later" when you head out the door.

I did a little survey of some friends a while ago and I asked them this, "When did you feel like an adult?" Interestingly enough, for many of them they felt like an adult when their parents acknowledged that they saw them as one. This told me something that I already guessed, that becoming an adult isn't something you do on your own. It's something that you're led to and given the keys to open.

When you were born, you were a month early. I was expecting you to be late just because I was late when I was born. With first babies there are so many unknowns.  It turns out that my body expels healthy babies early which is such a marvelous gift that it's the one thing I wish I could pass on to a daughter.  No big deal though.

Grandma was visiting with Dad and I when you were born because my baby shower had been that weekend and she wanted to attend.  She had no idea she'd also be attending your birth. She also didn't know that she'd be stranded in our apartment to set up a crib and a nursery and wash baby clothes and cook meals while we were getting to know you that first day in the hospital.  But she did all of that.  The timing of it all was a gift from God.

Of course, Grandma extended her stay by a week. You were the first grandchild and there was great celebration in all the corners of our family. Meanwhile, Dad and I were strapping you into your first car seat in the parking lot of the hospital, latching you into the backseat of Dad's F150 and staring scared at one another. I think Dad said to me, "I can't believe they're just letting us take him home.  Don't they know we don't know what we're doing?"  We had this moment of gravity knowing your life was now our responsibility.

But I had drawn a wild card; Grandma was there from your first moment.  I watched her carefully: the way she lifted you out of your car seat, the way she gave you a bath and dried you off, the way she calmed you and spoke to you and patted your bum while you laid face down on her lap. I didn't just watch her technique, I absorbed her posture. She wasn't surprised by your spit up, wasn't alarmed at your cries. She didn't shudder at your poop or flinch at your pee trajectory when you were naked.  She was calm, loving, and settled.  All her baby skills showed up. She didn't ask me alarming questions, didn't tell me what to do. She just gave me an example of care and I drank it deep into my heart and that week, that one week of my life, made me into the mother that I am today.

When Grandma left for the airport. She was getting into the car and I hugged her and cried a little. I don't typically cry when I tell people good-bye, but in that moment I felt like my teacher was leaving me to take a test I could never pass.  I felt vulnerable, stripped of my confidence to ever be anyone's mother. Without even asking me what was wrong she said to me, "You can do this. You'll do just fine."

She may have said more than that, but those were the words that I needed to hear. In that moment, she handed me the keys.  I had been living on my own since I was twenty.  I had held down a job, finished college and paid for it.  I had met and made a wise decision to marry your dad.  I had been married for five years, paid my rent, worked full time, cared for other people's kids, purchased two cars, turned twenty eight and had begun seminary.  You would think that I felt like I was an adult by that time.  But it wasn't until my mother said those words and kissed my baby boy and said that she believed I could mother you well when I walked through that door into adulthood.

Parents have this amazing power over us. You'll spend your whole life trying to please us, whether you think you're doing it or not.  It's just the nature of the relationship.  Here's the thing I didn't know though, that I would spend my whole life trying to help you become your best version of you.  It begins now, by helping you make decisions and learning new relational skills while we're together, being concerned for your health when you aren't, and sending you into experiences that will grow and challenge you.  But I'm sure it will still come out later in your life in the the form of sending you money, giving you my ear, and showing you how to keep your own baby boy from peeing on you while you bathe him.

I can't even tell you how full my heart is in writing this to you today. I have this picture of you as a man with a satisfaction that you've yet to feel.  I have a vision that your ingenuity will work its best for you to build you a brilliant career that lets you do the most good in the world.  I believe that you're capable of being a communicator that can change things, a creative that will think outside all boxes, and a man that lives his life by the laws of integrity, and grit, and justice.

You have an amazing life ahead.  You'll be a great adult.  I'll keep the keys ready.