When they were little, it was hard to imagine that there would ever come a day when our boys wouldn't all be sleeping under our roof, so that I could sneak in during the night to make sure their little chests were still moving up and down, and all was well--much less that they'd have homes and families of their own. I mean, for goodness sake, look at this picture of our two oldest, taken in 1987 (or YESTERDAY, it seems).
They were the cutest little fellas (said their very unbiased mommy), blond-haired and blue-eyed, with stocky little bodies and matching plaid shirts. Their personalities couldn't have been more different; and yet they shared all the same interests over the years: cars and trains, then dinosaurs and drawing, followed by football and lacrosse. They both liked to be the best at whatever they tried, whether it was a sport or a subject in school. They had a competitive streak that made them excel both on the field and in the classroom--and full disclosure, also led to occasional bickering over video games and controllers being hurled at walls in frustration. But the same jokes and TV shows and movie lines made them laugh, and they laughed together often.
They were very good boys--and I don't say that because I've got my rose-colored glasses on. When I hear about what some kids will put their parents through, I realize just how great we had it with our boys. We expected a lot of them, behavior-wise: talking back was not an option; and going to inappropriate movies or unsupervised high school parties wasn't either--no matter how many of their friends were allowed to go. We were strict (stricter than most of their peers' parents), but if they felt oppressed they mostly kept their feelings to themselves. There were no screaming matches in our house. I'm sure it was hard sometimes to be the kids who always had to ask permission first, and heard "no" more often than they would have liked; but they abided by our rules and in general, life with teenaged boys was pretty sweet at Casa Pearl.
These two oldest of ours set a tone for the three younger brothers that came after them, who also grew up anxious to do well in all their endeavors and to keep out of trouble. I know some people imagine a house filled with growing boys as a giant fistfight/wrestling match, but it really wasn't like that at all. Whenever I think of my experience as a mother, I feel incredibly blessed. I thought I was just about the luckiest woman on earth to be surrounded by funny and energetic little boys, then happy and endearing grade-schoolers, then kind-hearted, intelligent, and witty high-schoolers. Yes, when I had three boys under three, I had days when I didn't feel like there was enough of me to go around. Yes, there were times when I felt like tearing my hair out. Yes, my husband and I sometimes sighed with relief when bedtime finally rolled around. Yet even so, I can honestly say that it was all good--every single phase they went through had its pluses.
But nothing could have prepared me for how incredibly AWESOME it would be to have grown-up sons. Those two little guys in the matching shirts? They are both married now and currently have eight children between them (son #1 has four girls and a boy, and son #2 is so far taking after his mom and dad, with three little boys aged 3 and under). They are still sweet. They are still funny. They are still loving and respectful in their dealings with their parents. And these days, they make me feel like they are the ones who are taking care of me. They are very protective. They sometimes take me on mother-son dates. They assure me that no matter what, their dad and I will always have a place to live ("the best nursing home money can buy," they like to quip).
So don't be afraid of your children growing up and "leaving" you, young mamas. They may have to move far away, geographically, because of work or whatever; but they don't ever really leave you. And not only that, they will bring new people to love into your life, making it richer than it ever was when they were "yours" alone and lived under your roof.
Here are some pictures of me with sons #1 and #2, taken recently when we met up with three of our boys and their families at a lake in VA, to celebrate the 8th birthday of our firstborn's twin daughters, the oldest of our 14 grandchildren. (Son #4 was there to celebrate, too, with his wife and 21-month-old triplets; but they'd had to head home before these pictures were snapped, to rest up after spending a few exhausting hours chasing after those little monkeys--who like to take off in three different directions at once!)
I am so proud of these thirty-something boys of mine, I can hardly stand it. Imagine heart-eye emojis all over this page. They are hardworking men, devoted husbands, hands-on dads, and most importantly, they consider raising their children in the Faith their prime responsibility. I love them so much--for all they were, and for all they've become.
I could sit around feeling sad that my nest is empty, and feeling sorry for myself because I'm getting old...but look at those pictures, folks. I mean, truly, who wouldn't want to be me? When they were loud and scruffy little ruffians, running around doing what little boys do, my husband would say, "Just think: someday you'll have tall, strapping young lads walking along on either side of you, and they'll treat their mom like a queen." Well, that day has definitely come.
You can either bemoan the passage of time, or you can celebrate it. I choose to celebrate it.
Especially when I see the same plaid shirt worn in that 1987 picture on son #2's firstborn boy, Junior (because my daughter-in-law Ginger shares my sentimental streak when it comes to vintage clothing once worn by her husband).
If I'd frozen time to keep my boys with me forever, I wouldn't have had the joy of knowing the two little guys in this photo--who give me a distinct feeling of deja vu!--or their baby brother and 11 Pearl cousins (and counting).
Luckily, time marches on. Because in spite of the wrinkles and gray hairs that appear, and the jaw lines that turn soft and jowly, time is not my enemy. One day, my time here in this world will be at an end; but until then, every extra minute, hour, day, week, month, and year I am privileged to enjoy brings with it a new blessing.
As if I haven't been given enough already, God, thank you for the gift of time!