When I had already finished and turned in my first draft of my book, Surprised by Motherhood, my editor told me it was missing a chapter.
This came as a surprise to me.
She thought I needed to share more about my middle-born. My passionate son, Micah. She thought he was the child and his was the story so many other mothers would take comfort in reading.
That’s how chapter 10 came about. It’s called, “How to Fall in Like.” Because loving our kids is one thing. But there are seasons of mothering when liking them can be hard and it can hurt us to admit that out loud. I know many of you all know what I’m talking about because at conferences women will come up to me and whisper just one sentence, “I have a Micah, too.”
And I’ll know exactly what you mean and we’ll hug and look each other in the eye and find comfort and solidarity there.
When I was going through the most challenging of those Micah years, a friend told me one night while we were loading suitcases into the back of a minivan, “Lisa-Jo, it’s those passionate ones that will surprise you the most. You won’t even believe what God can do with His life.”
I wanted to believe her but it just mostly felt like a kind sentiment to a beat-down mother and so I smiled like we do and nodded like, sure, sure He will.
But yesterday I stood outside my front door with another friend as she described her passionate kid to me and I saw the ache in her eyes and how she didn’t believe me when I told her how great it could get. How these wild and wonderful kids see the world in a way that shakes their parents awake. It can be loud and uncomfortable, but it can also be good.
For a long time I wanted God so desperately to change Micah. Turns out He was always using Micah to change me – like some kind of human mirror I looked into Micah and discovered all these parts of myself I’d never seen before. Parts for good and also for chaos; parts that needed direction and taming and love and challenges.
Four years after I wrote my chapter about learning to fall in like with my son, I climbed into bed to tuck him in last night and thought my insides would actually split out my chest I like that kid so much.
That kid who is learning that there’s nothing wrong with having, “big feelings.” It’s what we do with them that counts. And I should mention that everything I share about him is pre-approved by Micah. Just in case you’re wondering.
He’d spent all afternoon weeping because the two tiny kittens we adopted a couple weeks ago were nowhere to be found. His dad and I were certain they were in the house, taking cover from the loud lawnmower and that they’d emerge eventually. But nothing could calm him. Nothing could put my hulk of an eight year old at peace.
So he wailed red-faced around the house desperately calling their names and clanging a can of cat food to try and draw them out. I’m sure all the noise only sent them deeper into hiding. But all his feelings and his love and his commitment to caring for those cats came pouring down his face and the whole family was moved. I promised him we’d find them. And then I sent him out of the room so I could try and locate the tiny pets without them being scared deeper into the bowels of my desk, where they seem to have taken up residence.
The thing is, while I knew those cats were fine, I also knew how invested I was in reuniting them with my son. I needed to make it right for him. I needed to see his love deeply returned. And on hands and knees I found his favorite kitten curled up on a pile of my printer paper and scooped her up to return her in person to my son. I knew he needed to see her. It wouldn’t be enough to just hear the words; his eyes and hands needed to know for themselves that the truth was alive and well in front of him.
What I didn’t realize is that the tears wouldn’t stop.
Once he had that tiny ball of white fluff wrapped up in his arms and sweetly pressed against his chest he looked up at me and all his love, all his giant feelings, were still pouring down his face and heaving his chest. So I gently told him to take a breath, and love his babies, and try not to scare them with his feelings. To which he replied, “Yes, but mom, these are happy tears.”
And if possible I loved him even more.
But he took a giant breath and rocked his kitty and when she was safely stowed back in her box with her sister he walked over to me and put his head against my side and asked, “Can I let out my happy cry now, mom?”
And my eyes were wet too when I said, “yes, of course!” And I stood outside the laundry room door and just rocked his big body from side to side with mine. He’s too heavy now to lift, but we can sway like two trees in the tender wind of our big feelings.
What I’m trying to say is that if you’re still in the trenches where the big feelings in your house are an out of control tornado, I wanted to give you a glimpse. A small moment that is a treasure to me and a testimony that our kiddos will start to grow into their feelings and learn how to name them and ride them instead of being thrown buck wild to the ground by them every time a storm blows through.
I’ve never liked or loved my son more than yesterday afternoon as he let loose his big, happy feelings at the appropriate time. His hot, wet face was pressed against my side and I loved him and liked him and we’re writing all the next chapters together of what life looks like in the wake of a kid who can move mountains with his heart.