Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

What I Want My Almost Adult Kids to Know

The sound of my phone playing the ringtone assigned to my son startled me awake at 2:00 am.

“Hello,” I managed to get out in my groggy state. I don’t know if the confusion and concern came through my voice, but I know my heart was pounding. I keep my phone on Do Not Disturb at night to avoid interrupted sleep, but my kids know they can call me and wake me up at any hour of the night.

“Mom,” my son began. “Where’s that OU clock that was in the entry way?”

As I try to shake the sleepy cobwebs from my mind, I am struggling to find the thoughts and words.

“Wasn’t it in your brother’s trash pile?” I ask. We have been cleaning during our quarantine, and I am fairly certain he’s talking about his brother’s things we cleaned from a closet.

“Yes, that’s the one,” he continues. “It was dad’s, and I want it. He’s gone, and it’s one of the few things I have that was his.”

It all begins to come together in my mind. When their dad passed away suddenly four years ago, his family kept most of his personal effects. The kids have very few things that were his, very few sentimental things to hold on to. I hesitated when I threw that old clock away. I wasn’t sure why, but something just felt wrong. Yet, I am fairly certain I threw it away anyway.

“It is probably in the trash can at the road. Trash runs about 6:00 am today,” I continue. “Make sure you check the box still in the entry way just in case I saved it in your brother’s things.”

“I can’t find it. I’m going out to check the trash at the road,” he says.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in my pajamas at the road, digging through our trash can with my son at 2:00 am. Fortunately, we found the clock and salvaged it from demise. He was able to take this small treasure into the house and place it safely with his things.

As I look back on the experience, I know I could have handled things differently. I could tell them no phone calls unless it’s an absolute emergency. I could have chastised him for not picking the clock up while it was in the house (he was already beating himself up for this one). I could have left him to dig through the trash by himself. I could have chosen to tell him I was sleeping and had to work the next day. Maybe that would have been the right thing to do.

But, there’s one thing I want my kids to know more than anything else:

Nothing in this world (including sleep) is more important than you are.

The truth is, we can say the people around us are important, but it’s a totally different thing to show our love. It’s hard. It requires sacrifice. It requires giving up things we love (like sleep). It means sometimes we have to put aside everything else just to focus on those we love.

I pray my children, my husband, and everyone around me knows from my actions that they are loved.

We are entering into a new era with my kids. My boys are 18 and almost 21. My baby will be 16 this next month. My boys have both graduated (well, the 18-year-old is finished with high school but is part of the quarantine class of 2020). My daughter will be a junior in high school this fall. It won’t be long before my husband and I are part of the empty-nester generation.

My time with kids at home is limited, but there are some things I want my kids to know—no matter how old they are.

I will always be available. I don’t care if it’s 2:00 am and you need me to help dig through a trash can. I will be available. I don’t care if you are in a different time zone and call me at midnight. I will be available. I may not be coherent, but I will do my best. I don’t care what is going on around me. I will be here for you.

You stole my heart before you were ever born. My job as a mom is to show you unconditional love. Whatever that looks like, I will not stop just because you don’t live under my roof any more. I am here for you, no matter what time it is.

The Father loves you more than I ever could. So many times I’ve fretted over my children’s safety, over their lives. I repeatedly have to remind myself that God loves these precious gifts way more than I ever could. Just as God loved me through the pain of divorce and loss, my Father is always right there with them, carefully sifting the experiences to allow only what He wants to allow into their lives. Sometimes it hurts so bad to watch the challenges they must face, but I have to step back and trust that the Father has their best interests in mind. He will use these circumstances to mold them into His image, to make them into the men/women He has created them to be. He will stop at nothing to give them the abundant life He has planned for them.

My prayers for you are my greatest show of love. Over the years, I have prayed with my children and I have prayed for my children. I have set timers on my phone to remind me to pray for them throughout my day. I have books of prayers in my car that I use to pray over my children every time I get into or out of my car.

I have prayed for my kids from head to toes, covering every part of their body as I bathe them as infants. I have walked circles around our home, begging God to put a hedge of protection around them. I have prayed over their rooms and their cars, that God would be present and remove anything that could damage them.

And there have been times I have cried out in anguish on behalf of my children. Tears streaming down my face as I beg God to hold them close, to put His angels around them.

I know my kids may not know the number of prayers I have prayed this side of heaven, but I pray they will know that my prayers are a love language poured out over them every single day.

No matter how old you are, I will always worry. My boys took off to Colorado this week. They have a friend planning a world-class adventure of cliff jumping and mountain climbing and all kinds of extreme activities. Blake sent me a picture today of his brother suspended on the side of a mountain today.

Last week, Cole went to the farm to help my dad. Before they left, Dad insisted he get some snake boots because the rattlesnakes have been thick down on the farm. I probably didn’t need to know this little fact before they left.

Cassie gets her driver’s license in less than a month. I don’t know if it’s because of her little encounter with a car and the garage door last summer or just because she’s my baby and my girl, but I am really having a hard time with letting her drive all by herself.

Yes, I’m a mom. It doesn’t matter how old you get, I will always worry about you. Yes, I try to go back to my previous statement and remind myself that God loves you more than I ever could, but it is so hard for a mama to let go! I don’t care if you are 60 years old and driving your grandkids on a vacation. I will still worry about your safety.

Just remember that it’s only because I love you.

Letting go is probably the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Our lives have not been easy, and I’ve had to do a lot of hard things. Walking through divorce was excruciating. Journeying with you through the grief of losing your father has been a challenge. Listening to the pain you have endured in this life is more than my heart can handle.

But letting go of you? Releasing you into this great big world that is full of so many dangers?

It might be the most difficult thing I have ever had to endure.

What happened to the sweet moments of snuggling my babies in a chair as we read together? What happened to the quiet nights where you crawl in bed next to me to talk? What happened to the early morning walks where we just enjoy some time together? What happened to the mommy-son dates just so we could have alone time?

I would give anything to have those tender moments back, to be the hero in your life once again.

But I know that’s not how God designed this life. He created me to love you and guide you…and then to let you go, to place you back in His hands. I’ve put in the years of work, and not it’s time to step back and turn you over to God. Now it’s His turn to guide your steps and lead you into the work He has for you.

I would give anything to go back to those sleepless nights and exhausting days. But I also look forward to seeing you fly! I know God has His hands on your lives, and I know He has great things planned. I will just choose to trust Him…and you.



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