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Mom's Journal

The Measure of Success

Your child's growing independence means you’re doing your job

When my daughter, Eva, was a baby, she was "tucked in" at bedtime. Her father and I took turns each evening saying prayers, snuggling her into her bed, kissing her goodnight, turning out her light. For years, our ritual was the same.

Then came the night when Eva was 12 and she met me in the hall to announce, "I can tuck myself in, Mom. I know how to pray."

Of course, I was stunned. I?d endured the moment she pushed the bottle away from her lips. I hadn?t walked her to school in ages. I?d long since given up picking out her clothes. But not tuck her in?

A mother eagle prepares her babies to leave the nest by unfluffing it. With her beak, she tugs out all the downy, soft stuff that has made such a cozy bed and sends it floating over the side until only thorny, prickly sticks remain. What birdbrain would want to stay in such a nest?

In my life, it?s more often my children who do the unfluffing. I pick up the cues and follow along. It?s certainly not easy. We moms spend years devoting ourselves to our children. We get used to being needed. And it?s not hard for us to put our lives on hold while we pour ourselves out for our kids.

But as I watch my children grow more and more independent, I?m forced to redirect my gaze from the everyday chores of mothering and refocus on my goals. What is the purpose of the laundry, the meals, the lectures, the homework monitoring, the carpooling? Where am I putting my energy, my focus?

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Is.:40:31).

That?s right. That?s why I do all these tasks after all. The goal of mothering is to get the babies out of the nest and flying on their own. My goal is to see them develop their own relationship with Jesus and soar on wings like eagles?with him.

Whether the unfluffing comes by my children?s "beaks," or my own, I?m learning to welcome it as a reminder of what this nest-building is for. We build a nest to hatch our young and, eventually, we empty the nest of them as we watch them fly.

This Mother?s Day and every other day you mother, welcome the moments when your child announces his or her independence: I can do my homework myself?you don?t have to watch over my shoulder. This outfit is fine. You may not like it, but I do. I?ll make my own lunch from now on. Such declarations of independence serve as a kind of report-card reminder that you?re on the right track. The more your child stands on her own by her own choice, the less you?ll be forced to "unfluff" the nest. Remember, this is what being a mom is all about.

Elisa Morgan is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. Her most recent book is When Husband & Wife Become Mom and Dad, with Carol Kuykendall (Zondervan). For information about a MOPS group in your area, call (800) 929-1287.

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