A Letter From Mom
We know a lot of young men who are navigating the awkward years of relationship with Mom after leaving home. Or navigating no relationship at all. What’s healthy? What needs boundaries? What needs healing? We thought this letter might stir some good reflection.
No matter how grown up I felt in every other area of my life, when I went home to my parents’ house I was suddenly 12 years old again. I plopped on the sofa and asked what there was to eat. “What’s for dinner? Got any snacks?”
Sense memory, particularly smell, takes us instantly back to the place where the fragrance first made an impact. We go back, and we are a child. A teenager. A person someone should do laundry for.
It works both ways. When my sons come home, it’s so easy to see them as children rather than the young men they are. It’s tricky, this mothering thing.
And you should know—and now I’m writing for mothers everywhere—it’s hard for me to let them go. Let me speak in your mother’s voice now: It’s hard for me to let you go.
See, I look at you and I see the young man that you are. I do. I really do. I see you but I don’t see you. I have to keep reminding myself that you are not 14 years old. Or six or two or 12. I look at you and I can still see you sleeping angelic-like in your crib. Soft cheeks. Soft face. All mine. I want to cradle you. With no effort at all, I can see you running to me with your eight-year-old knobby knee skinned and tears freely streaming down your cheeks, needing mercy. I want to comfort you. I see you at 12, awkward with a mouthful of braces and a heart yet to be broken, full of hope, and I want to shield you. I see your grown man’s body and yet I can so easily see you in soccer gear that’s too big for you. I feel a surge of pride over you, and when I remember an injury you suffered, the feeling of jealous protection that rises from within me comes out like a momma bear’s growl—my reaction as oversized as your shin guards.
I do see you. But equally, I remember you.
I am your mother. I always will be. I love you with a fierce devotion that defies measurement. I honor your choices, your desires, your difficulties, your life. Yet I struggle to reel my responses in. I’m not supposed to scream with joy when I see you on campus. It’s not helpful for you to have me throw things out the window when you are deeply hurt. I can’t cradle you or coddle you. But oh, sometimes…sometimes I really want to.
Though you fit perfectly in my full heart, you no longer fit in my lap. Nor my arms. Your soft, puffy hands have become firm, defined, weathered, and strong, and I love them. But sometimes my lap and my arms ache with longing and memory. My body remembers what my soul will never forget.
I know I have to let you go. I have to let you grow. I need to learn who you are now and relearn our relationship. Renegotiate. I need to grow into becoming a strong, encouraging, and good mother of an amazing and capable young man, and I don’t quite know how to do that. I don’t yet know how to be the mother that I want to be—that you need me to be. But because of Love, because of God, I’m confident we will find our way to this new way. And from that spacious, safe place He provides, I want you to know that my well-being is not up to you to provide.
My happiness is not your responsibility.
I love that I am your mother. I LOVE that I am your mother. Though I am yours, I am not you, nor are you me. You are separate from me. You have the right to live your life fully, independently, and wholeheartedly. I admit I don’t like the separation, but I respect it. And though I can no longer carry you as easily in my arms as I once did, I will forever carry you in my heart.
It is my honor to do so. It is part of my calling as your mother to do so. And it is part of my calling as your mother to let you go.
So I will let you go as far as you need to, are meant to, and God calls you to. But never so far that you leave my heart. Never that.
And now, what would you like to eat?
Editor’s suggestion: We realize this might touch a raw nerve in a lot of guys. We’d like to recommend you watch a very healing session called “The Mother Wound – For Men.”