I woke up early to come wake you up. Even though you don’t need me to. Even though you’re capable of waking up on your own to your own alarm clock in your own room. Every day you become more independent and every day I’m wondering what my role is in your life. My motherhood job description keeps changing and I’m doing my best to keep up and change accordingly.

So I woke up to wake you up so we could spend some early morning moments as just the two of us, the way it used to be before all the other kids came along. I treasure these times of hearing your heart and laughing at your jokes. It’s important to me to know what’s going on in your life—what classes you love, where you’re struggling, and what your friends are up to. But today we didn’t have any of those conversations.

Today we spent all of our 20 minutes alone together arguing. About breakfast cereal.

We didn’t have the kind you like so nothing else could be discussed. We needed to talk about how “dumb” our current selection of breakfast cereals is. How it isn’t fair that I don’t have to eat breakfast if I don’t want to, but you have to eat breakfast. Then while I was making coffee, you poured the sugary cereal you knew you weren’t supposed to have first. I turned around, saw what you did and poured it back in the box. You sighed and huffed even though you knew the family rules about cereal choices. You poured a bowl of approved cereal and acted like it was eating poison to have to choke it down. You grunted and groaned your way through and then left the table . . . leaving a mostly full bowl of cereal behind. I called you back. You stomped and whined. You finished the cereal. You went off to school.

For a brief moment I thought that unthinkable thought: what if this is the last interaction I have with you? Life is short and unpredictable. What if something happened to you or me today? Would I forever regret spending that 20 minutes debating the merits of breakfast cereal vs. other breakfast options? Would I wish I had let it go or just made you whatever else you wanted?

It’s possible I would. It’s possible I would feel guilty that our morning together wasn’t more pleasant or fun. My last words to you out the door were, “Have a great day!” but we both know the morning was a frustrating experience for both of us. Would I always regret that?

I love you with my whole heart and it is my job to raise you into a respectful, thoughtful, godly man and I have no idea how long I have to get that job done. Sometimes that looks like spending precious moments together talking about your hopes and dreams and building encouragement and joy into your heart. And sometimes it looks like having a 20-minute debate about breakfast cereal.

I do my best to pick my battles wisely and while this may have seemed silly to you, I want you to be a man who takes good care of his body because as humans we tend to make better decisions when we’re well-fed and well-rested. I want you to learn to have a thankful heart about what’s provided for you instead of being demanding and entitled. I want you to know that if I think something is important to your well-being, I won’t give up even if you badger and badger me. I want you to know our family rules exist for a reason and while I’m happy to talk with you about them, I’m not OK with you going around them when you think I’m not paying attention.

I wanted to spend this morning just enjoying your presence. I absolutely did NOT want to spend the morning arguing about breakfast cereal. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Even these annoyingly difficult moments are making you into a man who will bring good into the world. I am not raising a boy, I’m raising a man. I’m taking the long view of this whole parenting thing and even if some moments are frustrating, I can see your development over the years of our interactions. And I’m so proud.

I see you making wise choices when it comes to your friendships and activities. I see your tender heart towards those smaller and weaker than you are. I see your sensitivity when you feel you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. I see your spiritual growth and the priority you place on reading and understanding your Bible. In so many ways you are wise beyond your years. But our work together isn’t done yet.

I will keep engaging with you on the tough things both big and small. I’m beyond thankful that our deepest struggle is breakfast cereal related and not something worse. I’m coming to see that when I’m willing to engage with you on those issues, it may help you understand my seriousness on the more important things.

I know this morning won’t be our last difficult one. I know as you continue to grow and become more independent, I won’t be able to have the same input on your choices. That is how it should be and I welcome that with a little fear and trembling. I want to continue to earn a voice in your life because we love and respect each other, even when we disagree. I’m hopeful when the debates are about more than breakfast cereal, we can still leave for the day with kind words exchanged as you head out the door. I know we’re creating a foundation for that day by working through difficult moments like this morning.

So thank you for eating the cereal you hated. It may seem like a little thing, but I can see in it the kind of man you are becoming.  

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on "A Mother's Heart for God" and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.