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It was time for the annual semi-dreaded first day of school picture for my two youngest boys who are now in high school. Since kindergarten, this has been our tradition. As the years have passed, the eye rolls have increased, but they’ve always indulged me.

This time as I was taking pictures of my handsome, quirky 17-year-old, a thought hit me so hard it took my breath away: this is his senior year. This is the last year I will take pictures of him for this occasion at our house. Of course, next year I will attempt to capture the moment on the college campus, poor kid!

While these thoughts are catapulting through my mind, I continued taking pictures with the silly grin on my face. Meanwhile, behind my ridiculous expression my turbulent thoughts are racing.

Wow! How do I not break down in this moment? This part of my parenting journey with my cherished middle son is almost over. In mere months he will be at college and I won’t see him every day.

I don’t think I can do this.

I know I have to.

Even though my heart is breaking, I cannot let him see my devastation. It is a joyous time in his young life. I need to share his happiness and not steal from his delight.

After the kids left, I realized this overwhelming, intense feeling applied to each stage of parenting my four children.

I don’t think I can do this.

There were the early days when they were infants and toddlers. I was completely hormonal and sleep deprived, sometimes even pouring juice into my coffee.

The poignant times when they threw a major temper tantrum in the store and I had to run from a store, clutching one or two precious screaming banshees.

I don’t think I can do this.

The multitude of heartbreaks, big and small, experienced in their own lives. I had to appear strong even though my heart was breaking, too.

The relentless, ridiculous squabbles between them that drove me to wait for my husband’s headlights to appear.

The trying months and years where I was trying to provide for my family, have a relationship with my husband, take care of my children and the house, and maybe find a spare minute or two to think about my own needs.

I don’t think I can do this.

These are little hoops compared to the major hurdles I’ve had to jump over along the way.

There are the shattering moments.

When I met with the school counselor multiple times because my oldest son was being bullied. He never fit in with his peers because he was so different.

Or the life-changing evening when I had to call the police because my oldest son threatened to harm himself. Unbelievably, I became the parent visiting her son in the mental hospital. That same soul crushing experience happened three more times.

Or now, years later, when I thought my child was on the right path, only to learn he continues making dangerous and wrong decisions. He is an adult, so there is nothing I can do but watch him, walk away, and pray fervently.

I don’t think I can do this.

I know I have to.

This powerful feeling can apply to all of the days, months, and years that make up our parenting journey. Amidst the daily challenges and in the depths of despair, I needed to be sturdy and resilient, even if inside I was crumbling. My family needed me to model strength and to be their shelter through life’s trickles and through the devastating storms.

How can I rely on myself to meet the rewarding and the exhausting trials of parenting?

I know that I can’t. No one can.

Remember, my fellow amazing moms, when you are feeling completely lost and alone—you are never alone.

God is there.

He sees the smile that is hiding the tears.

He notices the times you show patience, when you would rather throw a temper tantrum yourself.

He knows when you remain calm in situations even when the wildest mama bear is fighting to appear.

He observes when you hit your knees in desperation because that’s all you can do.

He absorbs the thousands of tears that soak your pillow when you feel guilty, unworthy, helpless, and hopeless.

Relying on God can help you to find the strength to endure and to flourish in this awe-inspiring role he has blessed you with. That’s all you can do.

You may feel like saying I don’t think I can do this—but God recognizes that you can.

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Adrienne West

Adrienne is a Colorado native and would not want to live anywhere else! When she is not busy deciphering the perplexing boy brain of her three sons, or trying to please her diva daughter, you will most likely find her nose in a book or busy writing. She also loves finding great happy hour places with her husband, and acting young and sometimes crazy with friends! She does not spend enough time outdoors (unless forced to) and comes up with any excuse to put off cleaning her chaotic house. She is very grateful for her completely imperfect life.

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