The Touchdown Dance

There’s a quote from Jason Robard’s character, Frank Buckman in the 80s movie Parenthood, that’s been on my mind a lot lately. He says, speaking of parenting, “There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.” When my children were young I couldn’t appreciate the weight of that simple analogy. Years later, those words have crashed  into my soul with the power of a tsunami, time and time again.

As a mother of four boys, currently ages eleven, twenty two, and twenty five year-old twins, I’ve seen it all. I’m an old pro, a veteran mom, if you will. I’ve seen the joys of babyhood and all the wonder and magic it entails. I was there for all the ‘firsts,’ good and bad. First tooth, the first time they rolled over, took their first step; every milestone I saw in real time. I reveled in the endless snuggles and kisses and the special bond that only mommies and their little boys seem  to share.

But where there’s good in this world you can usually count on some bad being sprinkled into the mix as well. I was also there for the skinned knees and bumps and bruises, and all the injuries that could be cured with a simple “kiss it, mommy,” to the broken noses, arms, torn ligaments, surgery for said injuries, and other things that could definitely not be fixed with my magic mommy kisses. In these times I had to trust the medical staff with my whole world.

As they grew, the snuggles and kisses faded to a quick “hurry before my friends see” hug at school drop-off. Though my heart ached a bit, this new phase of boyhood brought even more exciting big boy things; things that make a mother’s heart burst with pride. Baseball, football, track, music programs, great grades; my boys were the very reason  phrases like pride and joy, and cream of the crop were created. They were the apples of my eye, and the joy of my heart. Though my love and pride for them was never based on their achievements, I couldn’t help but look at them in awe; God’s creations, born through me, flourishing, in academics, sports, music! How could I not feel a sense of pride? After high school the twins once again filled my heart to bursting when they chose service to our nation through the United States Air Force as their next step. As a lover of our great country I couldn’t have been happier.

Time marched on, as it does, and I began to learn another lesson. Not from our fictional Frank Buckman this time, but from my very own changing reality; never ever say, “My child would never….”, because yes my friends, they just might. No one is immune from this immutable fact. No matter how well we do our job as parents, no matter how much we teach them right from wrong, no matter how much we’d love to believe that those kind of things only happen to those kinds of people; sometimes it turns out that we are those people and in the blink of an eye, a child makes a choice that shatters our hearts into a million pieces.

When I committed to writing this blog I committed to being real; open, honest, raw. So here’s the ugly truth; I’ve watched helplessly as my boys, in young adulthood, collectively have suffered through PTSD, depression, anxiety, drug abuse/addiction, overdose that nearly took one’s life, alcoholism, several serious car accidents that my boys were so blessed to walk away from alive, and unplanned pregnancy. That’s right, my cream of the crop, pride and joy sons have navigated these horrible waters, as I looked on with my broken, aching heart asking God what I did wrong. It must be my fault. I’ve failed as a mother. He entrusted me with these precious gifts and I failed.

In these times the Lord never fails to remind me that my sons are created with free will just as I, and their actions as adults are not my fault. My job now is to pray. That’s always been my job, but now more than ever my prayer should be that the Holy Spirit would speak to their hearts so loudly they are simply unable to ignore it. I meditate on Psalm 139 and take comfort in the fact that our Father knows my children more intimately than I ever could and He is there with them when I cannot be. I pray. I trust. I believe. Better days are ahead. God created my children for so much more. 

I’m still there for them in any way I can be. They’re not too old to have a good cry on mom’s shoulder. I encourage them. I let them know the endless amount of love I have for them no matter what. I will never stop being there for them, just as our Heavenly Father will never stop being there for us.

Things are slowly beginning to turn around. The PTSD son? Accepted Christ and was baptized this past Summer. He is seeing a wonderful counselor who’s help is invaluable. He is not without his troubles, but he’s surrendered to the One who will lead and guide him on his journey back to normalcy. One son is on his way to an alcohol rehabilitation facility out of state even as I write this. He has the gift of a bright new future in his hands, if he only accepts it and makes every moment count. And that unplanned pregnancy? The result is now the light of my life! And watching my son exceed my expectations as a father brings me to tears, and once again fills my heart with pride. My children are still the cream of the crop, my pride and joy. God has a way of bringing good from bad. His ways are not our ways.

If you are in a similar situation, perhaps you too feel guilty or maybe even a bit embarrassed or ashamed. Please don’t! And please know, sisters and brothers, that you are not alone. Pray without ceasing. Turn your children over to God, and take refuge in His loving arms. Don’t forget, you’re His child too! He longs to comfort you just as you long to comfort yours. Let Him.

I do believe it’s true, what our fictional friend Frank Buckman said. We will always worry about our children; probably until our final breath. We may never cross the goal line, spike the football or do a touchdown dance. But isn’t it a comfort knowing Who’s in control of the game? 

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