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Raising Men

Let’s be honest, being a mother is hard work. You put your heart and soul into growing another human being. Sometimes you are equipped for the job and other times you are left without directions or tools. It’s hard to appreciate this job until you actually do it. No one can explain to you what it feels like to wake up and change soiled sheets or hold a sick child while you are mentally and physically exhausted yourself. Nor can anyone explain to you what it feels like to have your heart expand and connect so deeply to another human being. I know I for one have taken my mother for granted.

I’ve been lucky in my role as a mother. I’ve been able to watch my family go through many of the milestone’s first. It’s given me some insight into what I might expect in the future. One of those moments happened last night. My family got to have dinner with my nephew, Grant and his fiancé, Tiffany. They are the first of their generation in our family to get married. Grant is the oldest of three boys. It’s so amazing to see how a young boy has blossomed into such a fine man. Much of who he has become is because of his mother. Don’t get me wrong, his father gets a huge bulk of the credit too, but it’s the mothers with whom I am most able to relate. I’ve watched his mother struggled to raise three active young boys while growing up herself. Now that I have a teenage boy, I’m experiencing the challenge first hand.

Talking with Grant and Tiffany I realized how much credit his mother gets for not just growing a child, but for raising a man. Growing a child is challenging. You need to provide for their social, emotional and physical well-being. You do your best to keep them safe, teach them and make them strong. But what happens when you do all that? They become men, and men don’t need their mothers in quite the same way as they did when they were boys. As we launch our children into the world, quite often someone, such as a wife, replaces us as the center of their universe. As I watch Grant and his fiancé prepare for their wedding, I can see how this changing of the guard must sting his mother’s heart just a little. I feel a little bad for her. While it’s exactly what you want for your son, it must be hard to watch him grow up and not need you like he did as a boy.

It reminds me of my mother-in-law who also raised three boys. She did a heck of a job too. When they were young, she had three boys under the age of 3. Her husband travelled a lot and I’m sure she was often exhausted. I only have one boy and I can’t even imagine the energy it must have taken to grow three of them. But the raising part is where my mother-in-law excelled. All three of her boys are hard-working, self-sufficient men who have done well in making a living and providing for their families. They are strong family men who care deeply for their wives and children. They are what every mother hopes for her son. The saying goes that when your boys get married you don’t lose a son, you gain a daughter. But I can’t help but think that’s not completely a fair bargain. I know I have failed to appreciate that the man I love so deeply is the result of someone else’s love and loss. The love I have with him is because she loved him first, taught him to love and then loved him enough to let him go. For that, I am grateful.

Today is my mother-in-law’s birthday. It’s her first birthday without her husband by her side. I can only imagine how tough it is for her today. I hope this small gift of appreciation helps fill some of that emptiness. My family is my everything and I can’t thank her enough for not just growing a boy but for raising a man. Raising for me a man that takes care of his family, lives his faith and loves with his whole heart. I also have to thank Grant and Tiffany for reminding me of the important task I have ahead of me. I have been making sure my son, Ben eats well, does his homework, plays sports, learns to do laundry and is nice to his sister. Pretty soon I will be sitting next to him as he learns to drive a car. But my job description is about to shift. I’m no longer growing a boy. I’m now starting to raise a man. I am so thankful for the mothers and mother-in-laws who have modeled for me the importance of both loving and letting go. While I’d love to hold my Ben in my arms forever, I know my real task is to launch him into the world to build a life for himself and his family. I only hope I can do as well as my mother-in-law.

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