On Being a Mom & Birthdays of Adult Children


It’s a cold January day here in Cambridge and I wake full of memories. 23 years ago today I gave birth to our fourth child, a girl, in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt.

The birth was attended by my friend, Mary – a nurse who acted as advocate, caregiver, and labor coach to many of us who lived in Cairo. My sister-in-law, Terry, had come from the United States with my niece to help after the birth and she cared for all of us well, keeping visitors close or at a distance depending on the day, and making an abundance of homemade bread that met the needs of the post-partum soul in miraculous ways.

Stefanie Sevim Gardner was born tiny at 17 inches long and a bit over six pounds. Her personality showed up quickly and though tiny, we knew she was a force to be reckoned with. At 23 she is still small — and mighty. Her middle name is Turkish for ‘my love’. Coincidentally she was born 9 months following my husband’s first trip to Turkey.

She is creative and passionate, a voice for the homeless and marginalized. As with all our children, it is wonderful and agonizing watching them find their way in the world. But mostly, it’s wonderful.

It was probably good that there was no such thing as blogs when my children were small. There were too many moments that I would have blogged, moments that may have ended up public instead of private.

Today I pause to reflect on parenting – as I do on the occasions of all of my children’s birthdays. If any of us really knew what parenting would be like, we would run to the nearest cave and hide. It is far too overwhelming a job, and we are far too inadequate.

As my friend, Rachel, put it, as moms we are never enough. We are never enough to cope with the surprises and inconsistencies of being moms. We are never enough to be everything we want to be to our children. We are frail, inadequate, far too human, and far too short-sighted. We are never enough.

Rachel says this in an essay published in a new book called Mom Enough – The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope: 

“I am not mom enough. Never was, never will be.

But I am on the frontlines of another war. The battles are raging and the casualties could be my children, my husband, or myself. This war isn’t about me being mom enough. This war is about God being “God enough.”

And this is what I think about when I think and pray for my children – but particularly on their birthdays. Is God enough for my kids? Can I believe that God is enough for them? Will he hear them, guard them, comfort them? More so – will they hear him, will they feel his readily offered comfort, will they allow themselves to be guarded by the Almighty God? 

There are, Rachel says, “Mathematics of Grace” and as I think about birthdays and adult children I close with her beautiful words:

“And somehow, in God’s mathematics of grace: Mom (never enough) + God (infinitely enough) = Mom enough.

Mom enough to believe and to be called Chosen, Daughter, Righteous, Honored, Heir, Forgiven, Redeemed.

Trusting in God, because of Christ, I will rise from the graveyard of Mommy War victims, victorious and filled with resurrection power. Loving and living in his perfect enough-ness, I will live to parent for another day. Never mom enough, but filled with the One who is always enough.” quoted from Are You Mom Enough (Mommy Wars) by Rachel Pieh Jones now in book form from Desiring God

Today I am grateful for Adult Children, Birthdays, and most of all – the Mathematics of Grace. 

Blogger’s note: You can get Mom Enough electronically for FREE!! Yes! There are free gifts in this world and this is one of them! Just click here. If you want it in paperback format you can purchase on Amazon by clicking here.



The Dance of Parenthood


It begins like a slow dance or ballet. The music is beautiful and haunting. That baby we take home from the hospital, from the orphanage, or from the foster care system comes into our lives, and while everything changes it’s a slow change. We have anticipated this for a long time. The baby blankets and onesies are purchased and waiting. We have bought or borrowed a crib for the little one. The curtain goes up and the ballet begins.

Every movement of that first baby feels recorded in our hearts and memories, it seems like forever. The first smile, the day they sleep through the night, their eating, pooping, sleeping habits all weave their way into our lives.

As another child comes the music changes and the slow dance stops, replaced by the chicken dance where there’s little grace, just a lot of squawking and moving. It’s fun but it’s exhausting.

Middle years are the Macarena and Bollywood. There’s a rhythm and grace and fun. You got this thing. You can criticize other parents because wow – your kids are amazing and their kids? Better beware because they are headed straight to the state penitentiary by way of the principal’s office. But not yours. Oh. No. Yours are amazing and talented and oh you are so thankful for Grace. The Grace given to you of course – not that bestowed on others.

Every parent thinks they dance well during the middle years!

And then the teen years come and you bow humbly even as the dance changes from the Macarena and Bollywood (which you love) to that of rock and roll where your head is splitting and you don’t understand the words but you think you caught a swear in there. It’s so fast you are spinning. The activities, the angst, the long talks punctuated by angry silence, the fun yet exhausting dance of rock and roll.

And then comes parenting adult children. 

And suddenly it all changes. It becomes like jazz music: you agree on the notes and then you improvise. Negotiation becomes a key word. The parental dance goes back and forth between being too worried and too involved and throwing your hands up saying “well, it’s their life!” But even thought you throw those words around, you are always there waiting. When the text comes at midnight you hear the buzz. When the call comes in early morning hours you know to take it. When they make decisions you disagree with, you know that you still love them and will love and pray for them until the day you die.

Slow jazz constantly in the background but no longer a central part of your life. The furniture is rearranged and the house echoes with empty. You miss them deep in your soul, but you know you’ve raised them with wings to fly and they are exercising those wings well.

There are times when you pour over photo albums and you remember when they were so little. And you think “I thought they were so big. I expected so much out of them.” But you realize now that they were so little and the world was so big.

And though the dance has changed so dramatically through the years, you pray that even as you occasionally stumble and fall you will dance every step with grace. 

What dance of life are you currently in? What dance of parenthood?

Picture credit: http://pixabay.com/en/ballet-dancers-foot-slipper-dance-335493/

When They Pay the Bill

guest check“Your bill has been covered. No need to pay”

We looked in shock at our server.

“What do you mean ‘covered’?” Normally not suspicious, we couldn’t believe what we were hearing.

“Your son called and made arrangements to pay the bill. He says to tell you ‘Happy Father’s Day’”.

Warmth flowed to the marrow of our bones. This was pure delight. A completely unexpected surprise. The same thing had occurred a couple of years ago when, after asking for a check from a Father’s Day breakfast, a smiling waitress told us the bill was paid. That time it was our oldest son. He snuck away at some point during the meal and the deed was done.

It is unanticipated grace. They don’t owe us anything – we’re their parents. But they did it anyway, out of grace and love.

There is something about this paying the bill thing. When it happens the first time you realize you are in a different relationship, the playing field leveled. No longer do we relate as mom/dad/child, rather we relate as adult to adult.

It’s a sense of awe and wonder the helpless babe you brought into the world, reliant on you for life itself has grown into a fully functioning, autonomous adult. And that fully functioning, autonomous adult just paid the bill.

Parenting is hard. The minute we have that baby in our arms, whether through birth or adoption, there is a massive chink in our well-oiled armor. Parenting brings out the absolute worst and best in us. We are faced with our mortality and our weakness, at the same time we learn what it is like to love without condition, without expectation — we learn to love more like God.

And there are regrets. We are human. We look back on situations and wish we had handled them differently, wish we had not reacted so immediately, wish we had loved more and better.

So when these glorious moments of grace come, we drink them in with deep gratitude. And then we order dessert. 

Five Cities, Five Time Zones, Five Kids

They are in five cities – Cairo, Egypt; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; New York City, New York; Oxford, England.

They span three continents – North America, Africa, Europe.

They live in five time zones – EST, GMT, CST, PST, and Egypt time (which can’t really be described through an acronym)

“They” are my five children.

And it’s not nearly as glamorous as it may sound because I would like to have them all over for Sunday dinner. I can’t help but think it is sweet justice for my mom…. I now know how she felt with kids and grand kids in Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and the United States.

Annie sits in the heart of Tahrir Square where history was made and continues to be the epicenter of events in Egypt.

Joel makes his home in Chicago, arguably the best city to eat in world-wide. Lake Michigan, the Sears Tower, and Navy Pier are all world-class tourist attractions.

 Micah and Lauren navigate the cut throat world of Los Angeles, home to Oscars and egos.

Stefanie, in an apartment overlooking Herald Square, lives life in New York City and can attest to the fact that it’s the city that never, ever, ever, sleeps!

Jonathan is in the hallowed halls and ivy-laden buildings of Oxford, England, where minds meet and mingle over high tea and classic literature.

At one time I worried that they wouldn’t have the confidence to travel alone. At one time I wondered aloud if they would have a desire to explore their world. At one time I thought that it would be impossible to raise global kids in a small town.

But now as I sit in Boston with their dad, I wonder when we’ll all be together again!

But for now we’ll text, and Skype, email and phone, praying all the while that bonds will tighten despite the miles and eagerly await opportunities to celebrate future gatherings.

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Cutting the Cell Phone Umbilical Cord

“Mom, is it ok if I go on to Lauren’s cell phone plan?” This came from my son Micah, through a phone call last week. He had lost his phone and, as he and his wife talked, they realized that he could go on her plan. My immediate reaction was “Sure! That makes complete sense”. And then I hung up the phone and realized that in one more way I am reminded my children are adults.

Cutting the cell phone umbilical cord is a hard thing to do. Just as our babies are attached to the life-giving placenta via an umbilical cord, cell phones connect us to our kids in concrete and life-giving ways. We can text them or phone them at any hour “Hey – how are you? Miss you!” “Hi there! At the wedding. We miss you so much!” “Haven’t heard from you in a while! How’s the job?” Small sound bites but we cling to them because in our busy, over-connected worlds, it’s easy to forget to connect with what really matters.

I do have a theory that cell phone providers feed in to all that we’ve heard about the new adolescence of males stretching into the early thirties. As long as momma is paying for the cell phone that includes unlimited texting and a data plan, it’s hard to “leave and cleave”.

So, when do you cut the cell phone umbilical cord? When does it become time for an “adult child” to branch out on their own and get a new carrier? I’m not sure. Cell phone providers make it difficult. They charge far too much for a single plan, and demand a credit-check from young adults who don’t necessarily have any credit. It can’t be argued that having a family plan is more cost-effective. But when we cut the cord does it help us and our kids? If we cut that cord, will our kids voluntarily contact us instead of doing it through text message induced guilt?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. I know that I felt a certain trauma as I gave the go-ahead to Sprint to take Micah off the account and release his number. The umbilical cord is fully cut. The good news is that it seems to have been tied sufficiently so that there was no resulting blood loss and we seem to be doing absolutely fine.

What’s your experience been? Do your parents still pay for your cell phone? Do you pay for the cell phone that your kids use? Weigh in through the comment section!