Although yesterday was my little girls' 12th day of school, it was the first day of 5th grade for my trio. We were up by 6:10 and working our way through the two-schools-in-separate-parts-of-town-but-with-same-start-time routine. I made major headway on my To Do list--including some quiet time to read and write. I didn't quite get to my grand plans for meal planning, exercise, reorganization and Bible Study...but it is only Tuesday :)
I confess that I find this season of raising tweens to be a lonely part of motherhood. Between my three we've ditched braces and glasses, gotten a first zit, are dealing with changing bodies, ear piercings, razors, insecurities and mood swings. My children are growing into young adults, and because of my desire to honor and protect them, I don't feel free to talk about it at all.
Honoring budding little people's sense of privacy and self is important. I don't want to embarrass anybody or hear/share TMI...but I do want to get all the other 5th grade Moms in a room and say, "Hey, you are NOT alone!" I considered having a back to school gathering just for other Moms in these Middle Years, so I could look people in the eye and remind them we are in this together, but even getting on everyone's calendar seemed impossible.
We are not the same women who sat on playground benches together 7-8 years ago grateful for any adult conversation. In those days, play dates were for Mommies. We discussed potty training, reflux, tantrums, worrisome personality traits and preschool choices. No subject seemed off limits. We were tired, but motivated and fully engulfed in our motherhood roles.
Time has changed us. As our children have grown and stretched their wings, so have we. I look across the group I started out with and barely recognize who we were. There have been so many life altering headlines: divorce, pursuit of advanced degrees, remarriage, additional children, return to the workplace, cancer, aging parents, addictions, troubled children... There are a lot more concerns on our plates now than whether or not to try baby sign language.
I find evidence of how we have drifted apart and individualized even in the simple things: We drop off now instead of walking in...carline, birthday parties, sports practices, even church. It comes naturally as our children grow more independent.
It is normal and healthy that we no longer hover on the fringes of the kids' activities. But, honestly, I miss the camaraderie. In its absence I fear competition creeps in. I confess that I find myself defaulting to the somewhat isolated place of "dropping and running." I have noticed the lonelier or more insecure I feel, the more likely I am to stay in my Suburban reading with the windows rolled up or hunker down at home and unplug from engaging with my community. Where our mutual overwhelm with early motherhood once drew us together, our coping strategies and circumstances now seem to have built walls that keep us apart.
I've been rolling all of this around in my brain this week--feeling somewhat insecure myself about the return to school and mom circles where I can't always find my fit. Revelling in the freetime school schedules now allow, I have indulged in a newfound interest of reading books I somehow missed as a child. This morning, in an old classic, a quote struck me that seemed to offer perspective:
“You see, though we travel together, we travel alone." Madeleine L'Engle,
Ahh, there it is. Though we travel together, we travel alone... In this marathon of motherhood and life, even when we have the same goals we find ourselves with a different pace (often dictated by the other hearts in our home) and taking alternate paths based on gifts, challenges and circumstances.
Even those of us who are travelling together with the commonality of mothering in these middle years also find ourselves travelling alone because we each have a unique race to run.
I am not a runner, but I have participated in a half dozen 5ks through the years. In doing so I have found there are different types of racers: There are those who don headphones, sunglasses and seem to be in their own space oblivious to the world and there are others who are so busy socializing as they walk that you wonder if they will ever make it to the finish line at all. Between those two extremes are a whole host of others who are running their race and encouraging others as they go... a little eye contact, maybe a little conversation, head nods of acknowledgement, a word or two when they can tell you are ready to quit... This is the kind of participant I pray to be.
We each have to answer to our Maker when we cross the finish line. God assigned our roles and our courses. I want to do well with the little hearts I have been entrusted while honoring my covenant to my husband. (That's a lot of hearts to hold on this race!) But I also pray I will be brave enough to engage the other runners around me--even when I am winded and it may seem easier to shut out the world--to take the focus off myself, suck up my insecurity and step out of the comfort zone to spur others on.
The Christian life is so full of both/ands: Grace and truth. In but not of. Salt and light. Truth in love. I think it is this balance of give and take...loving and allowing ourselves to be loved...that we will find community the way God intended and the great comfort that we travel both together and alone.