“The days are long but the years are short,” I’ve heard it said to describe parenting. #mercyandgrace, ain’t that the truth. As a new mom, I remember dreaming about the 8:00 bedtime in order to regroup for the next day of raising little people who would cry and laugh within the same minute which would potentially make me cry and laugh within the same minute. Those were some long days. But then those crazy, erratic terrible two-year olds became five-year olds that you could actually carry on a conversation with and you started to enjoy your days. And then the ten-year old entered and he was helpful and sweet and still thought you were the cat’s meow but wanted you to take him to the park a lot and do all sorts of things ALL THE TIME and while you were tired, you did it anyway. Those were some long days. Then he turned 12 and pushed you away because he wanted to become a man and well, he wasn’t gonna learn to become a man from his momma, now was he? He decided he was smarter than his parents and copped an attitude once or 37 times a day for about 1,000 days. He rolled his eyes at you more than dice gets rolled in Vegas. He didn’t understand why he “couldn’t just do what everyone else his age was doing” because mom “I just wanted to have some fun.” Those were some long days. But he came back to me about four months ago. I don’t know what triggered his return or even the day it happened, but it happened. He stopped being so annoyed with me. Maybe he grew up some. Maybe I stopped being so annoying. Yay me. He’s 16 today. And these 16 years have been the shortest years of my life. In many ways I have waited for this day to arrive. For it’s very entrance into my life means that I will save a ton of gas, have less miles to drive every week and not clock nearly as many hours in my Toyota. Because he won’t need me to take him to church or to work or to meet up with some friends at the movie theater. And while I’ll have more hours to myself and less chauffeuring, I will miss out on those conversations that we had. Sometimes heated ones, sometimes not. I will ache for the spiritual conversations that happened during the 18 minute trek to the mall where he worked and the 13 minute jaunt to our LifeChurch.tv campus. I will long for the updates on how Switch was that night. I’ll miss the loudness of the music even though I tell him “turn it down because I am old” pretty much every time he turns over the ignition. But this new season, this new place in life for him is good. He is growing up and doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. He’s becoming a man right in front of my very own eyes. And while it’s an amazing thing to watch, the wing spreading, it is not easy for this momma’s heart who prayed for this child to enter her womb for 4 years. Not easy at all. These last 16 years have been tremendous. He has grown. I have grown. It has been so good. And ya wanna know the thing I’m excited about now? Waiting to see how God is going to use him in this world. Because I have no doubt that Noah Christopher Beall is becoming exactly who God wants him to become.
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(This blog post was written in 2010 about my oldest son, Noah. He is 15 1/2 now.) His face was smooth and was framed by his disheveled, curly hair. He couldn’t have been more than 30. He held her frame as best he could since dancing wasn’t his regular activity. His dancing partner, on the other hand, held her nearly sixty years well. Her thin frame was decorated with a midnight blue evening gown that did wonders for her blonde hair. She was definitely a sight for sore eyes. And her joy was evident as she looked into his eyes and tousled his brown locks. Just like she must have done when he was her little boy. My inner empty nester automatically fast forwarded time to a place where I was dancing with my son at his wedding. I imagined him all grown up, maybe 6’2″ or 6’3″ in height. His thin, scrawny body was now well-defined. I saw him honoring me as his mom by dancing with me all the while knowing his heart already belonged to someone else. I was full of joy and full of sadness all at the same time. He’s 11 years old now and he tells me that the only woman he thinks is beautiful is me. (Well, and Carrie Underwood. But mostly me.) I’m still the love of his life and can bring a smile to his face when I say loving or encouraging words to him. But I know that won’t always be the case. I know that in a short amount of time he will begin to see girls in a different light. He’ll start noticing them and I figure they’ll start noticing him. He will find himself thinking about a girl one day and will wonder why he can’t seem to eat when she’s on his mind. He will do things that he never dreamed he’d do just because she asked him to. He will be smitten. But mercy and grace, I do hope and pray it’s not until he’s at least 20. Because I’m a mother of boys and I know what typically happens. They leave home and cleave to their wife. As it should be. The self-preservationist in me wants to start letting go now so that the pain won’t be so deep when that time comes. But the mother in me knows that I have very little time left to raise these young men so I hold on to them like tomorrow will never come. For now, I’ll just love them and train them and cuddle with them as much as they’ll let me. I’ll tell them they can live with me forever because I’m very aware they will have no desire to do that as they approach young adulthood. I’ll laugh with them until my sides hurt and will answer their questions even when I’m tired. I’ll do it all. Because they’re my boys. And I love them.
As a mother, I’ve learned that some of the sweetest times with my boys are at bedtime. They always wanted me to lay down with them and either sing or tell them stories, followed up by a prayer that brings them comfort before they doze off. And I did. The nights are rare that I didn’t spend 10-15 minutes going back and forth between their rooms because they needed to give me just one more kiss and a hug. I wouldn’t have missed those moments for the world. Or for all the tea in China, you understand. One particular night, my oldest son, Noah, and I were talking. He was about 10 years old at the time. It’s times like these that I get a glimpse into his heart and mind. I hear about his joys, his sorrows, his struggles, his fears. I use these quiet moments to teach him different character qualities that I’d love to see developed in his life. He opens his heart to me because he trusts me. Here is how our conversation went many years ago:
Me: Do you know what integrity means? Noah: Um, like who you are inside? Me: Yeah, but also who you are when no one is watching. Noah: Oh. Me: You have integrity if you do the same things in private that you do in public. Like, if you are only picking up trash somewhere so that someone will notice but you don’t do it when no one’s around. Make sense? Noah: So, it’s when you are yourself. All the time. Me: Pretty much. You know how sometimes I am really nice to you when other people are around and then maybe I am grouchy to you when they are not? Noah: Yeah, like when you yell sometimes when no one is around but then give me hugs when friends are over? Me: (taking a big gulp) Yeah. Like that. I hate that I do that and I want you to know that the reason I do that is because I want people to think I’m a great mom. And I’ve been wrong. What I really want is for YOU to think I’m a great mom. And I’m sorry. I will be working on this. Noah: You are a great mom. You’re the best mom. Can we go swimming tomorrow?We moms and dads are all tired at bedtime. I’m up early in the mornings so when 9:00 rolls around, I’m a goner. But, for the sakes of your kiddos, get in all the time you can. Because one day you won’t be tucking them in anymore. Because they’ll be 15 and just a few weeks away from getting their learner’s permit. And you’ll miss it. I just know it.
This one. Noah Christopher Beall. He took my heart over 15 years ago. He smelled sweet even after he spit up. He smiled with love in his eyes for me and thought I was the cat’s meow. He didn’t want me to leave the room. He always told me he loved me. Now he stands over three inches taller than me and his sweet smell has since departed his tall, thin body. His introverted personality needs to retreat to his bedroom away from his extroverted mother and her “I just want to hear about your day” conversations. I am 187% certain that I annoy him on a daily basis but at the same time, he still calls me Momma. (When he calls me Momma, my heart warms and my answers will almost always be yes. I pray he always calls me Momma. But don’t tell him because then he might use it against me and I will be forced to give in. Sigh.) In 36 days he will obtain his learner’s permit for driving which means HE WILL BE DOING THE DRIVING and his mother will have to remain calm because HE WILL BE DOING THE DRIVING so pray that his mother’s already elevated cholesterol levels do not elevate some more because HE WILL BE DOING THE DRIVING. (He’s actually a really solid and cautious driver. Praise you, Jesus, and Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth and good will to men, amen.) I am still not finished with lessons that I still need to learn as his mom. And goodness me, I have more sons coming up to keep practicing. Since I don’t really know how to raise teenage girls, this is mostly for moms of boys. But, you moms of girls, maybe it will help you, too. Here’s what I have learned along the way and am trying to implement daily:
- Don’t say much. He’s probably tuning you out after a dozen words anyway.
- Smile more than you frown. I don’t do this enough but I’m trying.
- Don’t turn everything into a lecture. Hashtag guilty.
- Laugh with him as much as possible. This has saved our relationship.
- Do not be offended. I repeat, DO NOT BE OFFENDED if he wants to talk to his dad more than you. AT LEAST HE IS STILL TALKING.
He just turned 9. My little Seth Joseph, or Sether Joe as many affectionately call him. Sometimes he seems older, sometimes he seems younger. (And I’ve no idea what is coming out of his mouth. For the love.) I receive so much joy and laughter from this guy. However, he is known for pushing buttons and saying things that I’d rather him not say. But it’s fun to watch him grow up. He’s becoming a little man and one day he’ll be the tallest one in our family. At this point in his life, he’s all legs. Thank you, Seth, for bringing me laughs. They are truly a gift!