September 12–after my daughter was cast as Annina in La Traviata at Indiana U

Kaila (my daughter) before her second recital

I am re-posting something I wrote several years ago, because of the wonderful news we got yesterday, included in the title. Previously posted in By Common Consent. My son, by the way, did graduate from high school. He is doing well and continues to surprise us by his wisdom.

So my son will not pass Sports Medicine this term. Alas. We worked so hard. And I do mean WE. I taught myself the material so I could tutor him. But the class is made for a different sort of student than my son is. The big news is that I’m saying, “So what?” Sometimes, his grades depressed me. Now, I’m seeing him take responsibility and, even though we failed this particular class, I rather like the kid. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Over the past while, I have been amazed at the depth of questions he’s asked. Is it possible that my long-haired, long-sleeping son might actually THINK? That we might someday hold conversation about abstract and truly important things? That we might consider possibilities and impossibilities? That I might even be able to tell him how I feel about the Savior without his saying, “Mom, it really bugs me when you cry.”

I remember waiting for my oldest daughter while she broke curfew. I’d simply sit in my armchair and stare at the door. When she finally entered, I’d give her a look (you know what I mean), say, “Good night,” and go to bed. It was enough. She’d be consumed with guilt. My intent all along, of course.

But there came that day when I got to help her put on her wedding dress, button each button, and then help her put on her temple robes for the ceremony. At last I was able to tell her what the endowment meant to me, and not feel constrained. We were in the temple, after all. At the moment of her marriage, I did not flash back to the times I let her throw tantrums on the University Mall hallway rather than acquiesce to her newest demands, nor those curfew violations, nor to those awful moments when she slammed her head on the diving board during diving competitions. My response to my daughter was fully in the present: “Here you are. I had never dreamed you would be so beautiful.”

I had a similar reaction to her first vocal recital a few years later. She had never sung at home, but was majoring in vocal performance. I had no idea how good she was. When she began her first song, I burst into quiet tears. Again, it was a “This is YOU!” moment. C.S. Lewis might call it being “surprised by joy.” Can it be possible that YOU can do this? That you can BE this?

I don’t know what waits around the bend, but I anticipate that there will be many more moments of seeing glory in my own children, and wondering how I ever got so lucky–or how I didn’t see it sooner. I think I will forget Sports Medicine rather easily. (Already, I can’t remember the difference between vulgus and varus force.) I can pretty much guarantee that this particular son will not be a doctor. Will he be a missionary? On many Wednesdays, I get to see radiant, brand new missionaries in their brand new suits or dresses. I always imagine their mothers taking them to a good store and purchasing the clothes they’ll wear over the next two years. (Fathers tend not to do that, do they?) I can’t imagine any complaining about the price of the suits. I can only imagine the mother marveling at who her son or daughter is becoming.

Of course, neither mother nor missionary really knows how hard the mission will be, how many days will feel like one more failure. But there will be miraculous moments, sprigs of promise, sacred silences.

Thus far, whenever I’ve blogged optimistically about missionary work, someone (usually more than one) has let me know how hard a mission is, and how different from the ideal. Yes, I acknowledge it. And marriage can be a XXXXX (rhymes with pitch). Child rearing–oh, not for the faint hearted at all.

And yet…

This is what I told one of my missionaries: “Sublime experiences are usually unexpected and often overwhelming. They are the peaks on an often difficult path–a path so hard that at times, you wonder if you can take another step. As I’ve seen temple sealings, I’ve thought about how short the ceremony is. All of that effort to get there, and the words themselves take about two minutes. But for those two minutes, we’re elevated into a sacred realm, and we know we’re witnessing something worth everything–and more–which we’ve given be there, to be a part of it.”

My son will graduate from high school. His GPA won’t be stellar. But I know that there will be moments in our future when I will look at him and stand in awe. And he might even acknowledge that I’m okay, for a mom.

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)

  • Heidi Naylor

    This is lovely :) i worry about my kids too. Thank you for an uplifting reminder about enjoying the process and the moments of wonder. They’re the BEST moments in life.


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