Rite of passage parenting: Thanks for the memories
Do you remember the Old Testament story when Pharaoh refused to let God’s people leave Egypt? He dug in his heels and tried to show God who was boss. But God has ways of bringing people around to His ways of thinking. So He sent the 10 plagues upon Egypt, although not all at one time.
You would think with a little coaxing from above, Pharaoh would have gotten the message. But he had a skull as hard as my Uncle Roy’s wooden leg. It took 10 plagues, each one more devastating than the last, before Pharaoh consented to see things God’s way. God turned water into blood, and then continued with frogs and lice. By the time He got to the eighth plague, an army of locusts roared across Egypt, devouring everything in its path.
I often tell parents there are similarities between enduring the plagues and living with teenagers. I’m not saying teenagers are a plague; I will leave that up to you. There were days when my wife and I came home to find that, like the locusts, our two sons had devoured everything in their path. Then they’d look at us and ask, “Do you have anything else to eat?” When Jeremiah and Caleb were in that bottomless pit stage of life, we’d open a cupboard and find it stripped bare. Not even a crumb remained. And we didn’t bother to open the refrigerator. We knew it, too, was as empty as the day we bought it.
The first season of relief you get as parents is the day the children go off to college. And it lasts until the first day they come home for a visit. (Our first month with both boys out of our home, we discovered we didn’t know how to shop for groceries anymore.) By the way, doesn’t someone feed those children when they go to off to college? I know I paid for something the catalog listed as a “Meal Plan.” But every time they came home, they ran straight to the kitchen to see what we had to eat.
Before you know it, your children start hauling away more than just food. First it’s an old lawn mower, then some tools, a bed and a host of other things. And if they didn’t take it, their mother would give it to them, anyway.
Yesterday, my wife asked if I could get some plastic tubs out of the closet. I don’t know if every mother does this, but through the years, she has saved many of our sons’ favorite things. We have 30-plus years’ worth of each boy’s favorite toys, bibs, clothes, Sunday School projects and papers of all kinds.
Soon, we were pulling items out of the containers one by one.
“You remember this?” my wife would say. It seems like only yesterday they were running through the house carrying a toy in one hand and a blanket in the other. Only an hour ago, they went off to college, and a few minutes ago, they got married.”
Those days are gone, but as my wife picked up each item, I could see the joy in her heart reflected on her face. Memory after fond memory rushed back. She was looking for something special, something to pass on to our new grandson. This cherished item was a plush toy dog that belonged to his father, our youngest son. We gave Caleb this stuffed animal at the hospital when his tonsils were taken out. There, he and “Mr. Wrinkles” became lifelong friends. We dug through one plastic tub after another to no avail. Then I pulled out the final tub, and there sat “Mr. Wrinkles” in all of his glory.
I think God puts into the hearts of women this ability to save things that have significance. And now, my wife has taken out those items and is starting the process of passing them on to the next generation.
Personally, I can’t figure out why we don’t just load up the truck and give the boys back their stuff. But, as with everything else, women have reasons and seasons for what they do. And when it comes to things like this, you have to trust a mother’s heart.
Two thousand years ago, there was another mother who kept track of many special memories of her Son.
“But Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I wonder what Mary kept in her closet as a record of her Son’s life? Rolled-up swaddling clothes? A worn pair of sandals? Or maybe . . . a nail? A father might be the family provider, but the mother is the keeper of memories.
Even when you don’t find them until you open the umpteenth plastic tub.