THE BLOG

Thirteen Things I Know Because I'm the Mother of a Teenager

07/29/2013 05:44 EDT | Updated 09/28/2013 05:12 EDT

My son is celebrating his thirteenth birthday this month. I can hear him up in his room right now playing Risk with two of his cousins. And my heart vacillates between swelling with love and sighing with relief. The former is the obvious one- the latter is due to the fact that we still have a few years to go before the driver's test. Phew. Here are thirteen things I now know- that I didn't know back then...and all because of becoming Sam's mama.

• I know more of patience now than I ever did back in the year 2000. I was so young and so impatient. I was not really yet aware that life is about taking deep breaths, counting to ten and exhaling. I know that now.

• I know more of understanding. I thought I knew, but I didn't even know the half of it. I am so aware now that learning to understand other people and even myself is a process that takes a lifetime. I love relating to my son in this special way- through identifying with him, reflecting on what ways we are the same and what ways we are different. He has been a treasure trove of discovery for me and has made me more self-aware and more people aware than I ever was thirteen years ago.

• I know more of compromise. Man, did I ever learn about give-and-take over the past thirteen years. Mostly about give, but isn't that the best part! I learned that sometimes I need to pick my battles and sometimes I need to just walk away. Sometimes I need to lean in to the hurt, and sometimes I need to just smile and reach out my arms in an embrace.

• I know more of compassion. I have learned so very much about this one. About empathy and caring and kindness. The other night, my beloved son took my rough, cracked feet in his hands and rubbed out the pain. He was my masseuse for about forty-five minutes. That's compassion. And I am learning so very much about how to be compassionate and caring even as I watch him interacting with me and those whom he meets.

• I know more of listening. I take five to ten minutes each night and I try to lay down with each of my children. As Sam is the oldest, I usually save him for last. I love that bedtime chats are so chill. There is so little pressure to say anything profound. No need to argue and sway the other's point of view. All that's necessary is a listening ear. We draw closer when we listen better.

• I know more of sharing. Mostly, I share everything now. It started when I shared a tiny space inside with four little Gard babies. And what's mine is theirs- and has been, ever since.

• I know more of forgetting. I have a really, really hard time with this one. But today, as I proudly watch my son- knowing what a fine young man he's grown into, I am a little more inclined to forget those other moments. The ones where he and I disagreed. Where we clashed. And to disallow those moments where we were not on our best game- because life is about remembering what's golden. And sometimes choosing to forget what's not.

• I know more of forgiving- and being forgiven. Children are among the most forgiving people on the planet. They love so unconditionally. I wish sometimes I could be a three-year old again. They are so amazing at this- forgiving and moving on. My son has had to forgive me so many times- I couldn't even begin to count. He is amazing at this. And I am learning more and more of how to perfect an attitude of forgiveness in my life as well.

• I know a (little) more of relaxing. Not much, but a little. I even stopped the housework today to play x-box with my kids. And that's saying a lot.

• I know more of loving. Loving isn't easy. It's hard work. Whoever says it isn't is...either lying or freaking superhuman. I think love is hard. But I can do hard things. And hard things are often the most rewarding, when you think about it. Raising four children is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most blessed experiences of my life. Do I love every minute of it? Nope. But I love the people I am committed to. And that makes it a wee bit easier.

• I know more of being present, of being in the moment. I am trying to work on this one too (do I really know anything, or just think I do???), but being in the moment for me is stopping my own agenda and noticing what is going on around me. Like the spider crawling across her web. Like a mother cat carrying her kitten. Like watching my youngest write a story- face scrunched up in concentration. Or noticing the expression on a child's face when their feelings have been hurt. Or being in tune with that child who is not feeling comfortable and settled. It's being present in those happy and sad moments. And letting time stand still, even if for but a moment.

• I know more about parenting. I think. Parenting has been a gig that I thought I could learn from a combination of watching TLC, reading those What To Expect Books and listening to my mother. In the end, I had to learn things the hard way. Trial and error. Along with a little help from a blog I now read faithfully.

• I know more about purpose. My purpose in life is to live well. To live nobly, faithfully and compassionately. To live worthy of my calling before my God. Before my family and before my beloved children. I have been called to be a mama. I don't think callings are ever easy. They require sacrifice and courage- something else I wasn't very good at thirteen years ago. But, I am learning. And I am trying to be faithful to that which I have been called to do- to live my life well. And to be the best mama I can possibly be. That best runs the gamut. Some days, being the best me is not screaming at my kids and trying to be civil at least 50 % of the time. On other days, the best me throws slammin' birthday parties like it's 1999. My best varies. But, what never varies is the purpose. And that purpose has been my driving force throughout my life. Being a mother didn't change that purpose. It just made it deeper. Richer. And more widely encompassing.

I love you, Samuel. I remember little scrawny you the day after you were born. I remember feeling I could never love so much or so hard. But I was wrong. Today, I love you more.