What if the fear we sometimes feel for our kids is what we need to remind us we love them? Great post this Friday with Robynn.
My son Connor and his friend Barnabas went on an adventure. Late Saturday afternoon, February 9th, they loaded up two kayaks and pushed off into the Kansas River. They searched out a sandbar where they set up camp and spent the night.
It would be good to keep in mind that Connor is not quite 16. Barnabas is 14. It’s winter time here in Kansas. Although it could have been worse, the temperatures did dip to 40 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday night. The forecast called for a 60% chance of rain. There was a blustery wind that blew all night long. The adventure involved water, sand, boats, tents and fire.
For the record I was against the adventure from the start. I didn’t think it was a good idea. But Lowell, the Dad was keen, and even excited, for Connor to plan such an event. He was supportive, helped Connor track down the supplies and the gear.
I kept wondering aloud if this was such a good idea. No one seemed to listen.
I kept suggesting deferring the adventure for another time, or maybe eliminating one of the components. What if they just went kayaking? Or what if they went winter camping? Perhaps camping in April would be a good idea? They kept talking and planning and ignoring. I remember reading that dad’s exist to slowly separate moms from the child. I remember reading somewhere else that dads encourage adventure and risk, that moms want safety. Or maybe I made that all up…but it kept me quiet. I didn’t, and I could have, put my foot down and adamantly stomp out the whole crazy idea.
And so the boys went camping in the winter rain. When Lowell dropped them off it started to hail!
When Connor was first born in faraway India nearly 16 years ago I was completely overwhelmed. Hormones, fatigue, and lack of support structures pushed me into a deep agonizing place. Those first months were not pleasant ones. My expectations for me as a mother were dashed. I thought I’d be amazing. Instead I was tired and sore, empty and emotional. I even wondered if I had any affection for this baby boy that cried, that interrupted my sleep, that disturbed my roles, that disrupted my ideals.
On Easter Sunday that year we took a tiny baby boy out to the village to worship with one of the village churches we had come to love. The women, girls, and grandmothers all descended with exuberance on this little, very white, bubba! They scooped him up. They doted on him. They loved him enthusiastically! At one point one of the Aunties took him next door to see another Auntie. When they brought him back several minutes later they had put kajol on him. Kajol, charcoal (sometimes in pencil form, sometimes straight from the fire place) is placed in the eyes of baby boys as a primitive type of eye liner. It serves to confuse the gods. Perhaps they’ll think this baby now made-up is a girl and they won’t harm him. It also protects the boy child from the evil eye. A large black spot is usually applied on the forehead or cheek to make the baby seem less than perfect. That way the “evil eye” won’t be jealous, or won’t want to do its part in harming the child. It’s also used simply to accessorize the baby…like the large flowers that moms attach to bands that wrap around new baby girl’s heads…just for pretty!
Thousands of babies in India have kajol applied all the time. It’s a mark of love really, born out of a desire to protect. But when I saw it on my small Connor I freaked out. I smiled and masked my panic but it was there nonetheless. I imagined blindness and eye infections. I was horrified. But I’m well versed and trained in crossing cultures and I kept it together until we got home. And then I cried. And cleaned gently the coal from my Connor’s eyes. And pleaded with Jesus to protect my baby.
I realized, in my panic, that I loved my baby. I was so relieved. The monster mama bear that rose up within me to protect my son was an unexpected guest. I was so happy to meet her. I was so pleased she showed up. My fear somehow, in a slightly twisted way, proved I loved my son. Anxiety mysteriously affirmed my affections!
However I knew I couldn’t live in paranoia and panic. In a deeper place, past the panic, I knew I wanted to be truly at home in India. I wanted to relax and let India love my children. I wanted my children to know India and to be completely at home there. I would have to face my fears. I turned to the only Person I know who specializes in Peace. I poured out my heart to Jesus. I asked him if he might help me to relate to Connor as a mother relates to her 10th child. I wanted to be laid back and relaxed as a mother.
I wanted to be like Mary Jo Hawkinson.
Mary Jo is an amazing mother. At the time of Connor’s birth she had birthed 10 of her own babies. She’s made for it. She loves completely. She nurtures deeply. She was made to mother and she’s embraced that calling with energy, with a mellow manner, with mercy. Mary Jo mothers well. I prayed to be like her.
And I think God transformed my heart that Easter Sunday years ago. I became comfortable in my parenting. I’ve been quite laid back ever since. I don’t freak out often. I’m relaxed.
Saturday night Lowell and I were talking about Connor and Barnabas. We wondered how they were doing. Lowell was more anxious than he thought he’d be. I was worried too. We no longer need the reassurance of fear to convince us that we love Connor. We’re crazy about the kid! As we talked I remembered that prayer I had prayed years before, the prayer to become like Mary Jo, and I chuckled.
Chuckled because that prayer, prayed in desperation 16 years ago, had come full circle. My first-born was out camping with Mary Jo’s baby. You see Barnabas is Mary Jo’s eleventh and last child!
Connor came home exhausted but impishly victorious! Both boys agreed they’d like to do it again but maybe they’d wait for warmer weather–I applaud that idea.
I saw Mary Jo at church. As you might imagine she wasn’t at all worried. She did admit she might have had second thoughts if there had been bears! But we don’t have bears in Kansas.