It doesn’t matter if they’re three or thirteen or twenty three. If they’re ill, sometimes they just need their mum.
I used to joke with new parents: “Don’t worry. It’s only the next eighteen years you’ve got to worry about!”
But as my boys continue beyond that magic number, I’m finding out for real that parenting never ends. Your children don’t reach a set point when they suddenly become adults and don’t need you, whether it’s for gentle guidance and advice or to actually physically step in to take care of them.
And now I look back, I can see all the times my mum did that for me as an adult:
– how she travelled for hours on public transport just to be in the hospital waiting room to give me some moral support when I had to see a specialist
– how she moved in to take care of me and my family when hyperemesis took over both my pregnancies. It was her insistence that made my GP get me admitted to hospital for the treatment I needed – and made him arrange ambulance transport for me!
– the precious hours of that night she spent with me in the early stages of labour while my husband slept until it was time for him to drive me to the maternity unit
– all the times when she listened, stroked my hair, and gave me the benefit of all her years of experience, when I hit obstacles in my life
– that sense of belonging whenever she cuddled me, no matter my age or her increasing frailty
And however old my boys get, they also seem to still need that maternal cuddle once in a while: a place to hide momentarily from the world, to feel safe, and to find sanctuary and new resources of strength.
I think parental love is one of the strongest forces in the world. I remember the shock of its first fierceness when my boys were born. And that determination to fight their corner, even if they can’t fight themselves sometimes, never goes away. It can move mountains and save lives. It can stay awake all night and clean up vomit. It can drive miles and buy easy to swallow food. It can hold a hand and bring painkillers. It can book appointments and hold out hope. It can stroke that still soft hair and find the encouraging words to lift a poor tired head. It can put aside tiredness or hunger to sit and listen. It can pray and pray and never give up.
Whenever I hear Adele’s version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’, I don’t hear romance but a declaration of undying parental love. Have a listen yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2zov3MSTEs
Now both my parents are dead, there are times when I miss the reassurance of that support and the knowledge of its availability to be called on. But I remind myself that I am not orphaned because their love was only a model of the same, even more powerful love that my Everlasting Father continues to offer me – and all of us.