What the . . . ?

My son is 23.

A baby by all conventional standards.

Somehow, it turns out, I was the same age–23–when I gave birth to this kid. What was the Creator in charge of baby miracles thinking? I had zero clue about raising a human back then. An oft-said phrase in the early 90s was, “Get a clue,” but I could never figure out where to find one?

You might think I look at my son and wonder how on earth could he be a dad right now. And you’d be right. He’s still finding his way in the world, has graduate schooling to complete, and is, you know, 23.

But something else shifts inside your mom heart when you reach this moment. It’s like finding yourself in the aperture of an hourglass—that middle point where the sands of time are neither coming nor going. In this place, when you look backward you see forward simultaneously. If you haven’t reached this pinnacle of mothering yet, it’s trippy. Fair warning.

So, what do we do as a mother with such an unveiling? What is the lesson, the gift?

For me, the gift is realizing my child is in a way better place emotionally, spiritually, mentally than I was two decades ago. Isn’t that our goal as moms? To raise up a generation greater than the one before?

My son’s faith seems like it’s already 47 years seasoned. As in, he gets the bigger picture and deeper meaning of life more than I do, and he’s figured this out in half the time. Thank God.

Even though life hasn’t tested him in the same ways as me, his trials and struggles are real and all together relative. Many experiences and circumstances he’s endured at such an early age will never give birth to others throughout an entire lifetime. He could have turned away from God countless times, or spiraled down a rabbit hole of despair on many occasion. But he didn’t.

Which is astounding to me because when I was 23, I was just getting my sea legs around faith. How many of you can look back to that age and say life made sense? God made sense?

As fast as I’m unfolding and unlearning to who I really am, my son is double-timing his road to authentic wholeness. And this is the reward we can look forward to while raising our kiddos.

As demanding, heart wrenching, downright exhausting, thankless as our very important job of bringing up boys and girls is, every second is worth the grind if our kids know love, believe in something greater than themselves, and have a worldview more spacious, compassionate, inclusive than ours.

I don’t know about you, but all three of my kids have stretched me long, wide, far, and deep over the years. They’ve taught me God’s green earth, all its inhabitants, and the entire cosmos is an even more beautiful place than I imagined once I stopped looking through a pinhole.

We do this don’t we? Tighten our circumference of concentric circles surrounding what we accept and don’t accept based on upbringing, life experience, outside influence. But seeing life through a jaded past or a fearful future is a lonely road. Lots of blessings go unnoticed.

Which is why reaching the aperture of motherhood, where our child reaches the same age we were when we birthed him into this great big world, is a soft landing place for us to stop, drop, and roll with acceptance of what was for us, gratitude for what is for our child, and a hope of what is to come for both of us.

Shelby Spear

A self-described sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and love enthusiast, Shelby is a mom of 3 Millennials writing about motherhood and life from her empty nest. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") , and you can find her stories in print at Guideposts, around the web at sites like Her View From Home, For Every Mom, Parenting Teens & Tweens and on her blog shelbyspear.com.