By: Kendall Louis
Chances are, many of you just sobbed, rejoiced or exuberantly exhaled watching your child graduate from high school or college.
And so, before I go any further, I feel the need for full disclosure: What you are about to read is the product of a very proud, loving mom of three pretty amazing (in my opinion) individuals. Now, before you STOP reading because of that, please know that this is in no way meant to be boastful. It’s my personal belief that God created and formed my children into who they are today. I was just the fortunate one, along with my 6-foot-9-inch husband (and you’ll understand in a moment why I told you that), entrusted to care for them in the process.
That said, as I write this article, I confess to carting around my daughter’s high school graduation announcements for at least 10 days now, hoping to chip away at the arduous task when a free moment presents itself.
Until two years ago, I was not fond of such announcements. They felt like a candy-coated effort to beg on behalf of your kid. But days before my oldest son graduated high school, I found myself crying at the kitchen table, wanting to share the joy of my son’s impending milestone. I was so grateful that John was successfully “launching” — with a full basketball scholarship to boot — I could not keep the news to myself.
So I jumped online, ordered announcements and sent them to the precious people who had helped shape my 6-foot-10-inch Ouachita Baptist University-bound boy’s life. It felt wonderful.
Today, as my second child graduates, I reflect on how I relished creating her custom announcements celebrating the exciting news: Nicole will be wearing No. 1 this fall for the University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team.
I am also encouraged by the new breed of girl I have witnessed in the modern-day female athlete. My 6-foot-tall shooting guard daughter and her teammates are supportive, loving and all about “team.” They are feminine and funny and beautiful people, inside and out. There is little drama and even less meanness. I could not have ordered up a healthier, happier childhood for Nicole. And I owe much of this joy to her involvement in team sports.
Parents are often criticized for living vicariously through their children. I am not sure I am guilty of that crime exactly, since being a news anchor and Broadway star-wannabe is worlds away from the experience of a college athlete.
I will admit, however, that I do watch all three of my children with amazement — enthralled by their aggressive play, physical talent and love for this on-court competition, all while prioritizing academics and being pretty darn good human beings. I also admit to being a total embarrassment with my ebullient cheering and high kicking in the stands. (I am not kidding!)
But here is something I do not want to admit: I am a little scared these days. I am afraid of what will happen when my youngest child “launches.” Who will I be when my sweet, 6-foot-6-inch — and still growing — 16-year-old shooter Luke leaves home for an engineering school somewhere? And what will I become, whom will I serve, when my “mom” job is only part-time?
In a 2008 commencement speech at Stanford University, Oprah Winfrey spoke about the “helper’s high,” a spiritual surge you gain from serving others. I cannot think of a more fulfilling “service job” than being a mother. Winfrey also spoke about how important it is to do the work you are meant to do: “How it just feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid.”
I love these lines from a poem Winfrey quoted by Gwendolyn Brooks called Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward: … “Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along.”
“She’s saying we must live for the present. Be in the moment. Life is now,” explained Winfrey.
This is a tough mindset for me. Just as I have invested many years encouraging my children to tap into their God-given talents, look inside and dream big, I am spending a lot of time being still, trying to listen to what my heart is screaming, begging me to embrace — as I begin to define this next phase of my empty-nester life.
And hopefully this time next year when Iprepare to mail Luke’s graduation announcements, I will have successfully launched myself as well.
By: Kendall Louis