Have you ever held things together with a good old rubber band? Maybe your kid’s toys, or a bundle of rhubarb or asparagus fresh from the garden? They can hold anything! Heck, I even used them to hold my jeans together when I couldn’t afford to “splurge” on maternity pants.
Rubber bands are awesome, but generally they’re just a temporary fix. The asparagus gets cooked, we no longer need the toys, and our pants, well, you know.
Often throughout the last 20 years as a mom I’ve felt like our family was held tight by a perfect, stretchy, brightly colored rubber band. Sometimes I’ve been the rubber band, sometimes my husband or children, often our faith or our love for each other. Like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, we’ve been held together tightly, traveling as one from place to place, idea to idea, adventure to adventure. But a bouquet, no matter how beautiful, doesn’t stay rubber banded together forever. You take it home, trim the ends, and cut that thick, green rubber band. And then you watch it fall a little. It loosens up. You take the individual flowers and keep them together in a vase, but they are no longer tightly bound. They’re free! They still belong together, they still complement one another, but they each take up their own space. They are separate and together at once.
Last weekend we cut our family’s rubber band. We left our sweet, fun, capable daughter at a University that’s a few hundred miles from home. It’s the first time our family of six has been separated. The emotions were high, but it was time. Time for our bouquet to spread out and flourish.
We came home and the very next morning I went to our mom’s group where I actually serve as a mentor mom. I always joke that it’s because I’m old, but the truth is is I have been doing this for a pretty long time. I’ve earned every scar and delighted in every blessing. I’ve seen good days, bad days, and everything in between. And I’ve loved it!
I’ve learned so much along the way and I’ve tried really hard to teach them a few things, too. Here are some of the things that I hope I’ve taught them as they begin to leave home.
1. God comes first. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone else that I know. You can’t fully lean on anyone else in this life. No one can be your everything, that’s just too big of a burden to bear. Everyone will disappoint you sometime, but God will be your rock. Lean on him.
2. You won’t make friends with everyone. That’s ok. Not everyone will appreciate your sense of humor or love of Star Trek. That’s ok. You will find your people, and your people will find you.
3. Be kind. Be generous. Be loving. Look for the beauty in everyone. Not one of us is better than another. Not one. We were all created in the image of God, and we are all worthy of love and respect.
4. Befriend people who are different than you. Actually, befriend a lot of these people. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. I pray that you never stay in a bubble or with only those who think how you think. You need people in your life who are of a different faith, a different color, a different party, a different ideology. Never forget this.
5. Don’t be gross, but there are more important things than a beautifully kept house. Like how the people who enter your home feel when they’re there. Be hospitable. Pull up another chair. Make your table longer. Cook for bodies, but feed souls. Let everyone who enters your home know deep in their bones how welcome they truly are.
6. Life is always better on the dance floor! Jump in. Take risks. Look silly. Be real. You’re not the best dancer, that’s ok. You don’t always have the best moves. I look like an old lady. Whatever. When we jump in and have fun the rewards always outweigh the risks. Just go for it!
7. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in someone’s life, but you do have to make a difference. Make a difference in the lives of those around you. Let your mark be a positive one.
I pray that I have taught my precious kids these lessons, not through books or words, but through my actions. As a mom of four amazing young people, I want to be a better person every single day. I want to be teaching them even when I’m exhausted or when I think that they’re not paying attention. I want to live my life in a way that when it’s time for them to live on their own (as that time has already come for one) they are ready.
Moms, Dads, friends, you can do this. Begin to teach the most valuable life lessons when your children are young and they will not forget all that they have learned.