Last May, my husband and I “uncelebrated” our 25th wedding anniversary–meaning we did nothing. Our anniversary was the same weekend as our daughter’s high school graduation and four weeks until our oldest daughter’s wedding. But unbeknownst to us, our four children were cooking up a special surprise.
Our lives seem to be moving in fast-forward these days as we watch our children take flight for college, careers, and marriage. I thought I was busy when they were little, but this is a whole new ballgame!
I’ve watched my daughter graduate from college and my son working through college; and for the past ten years, I’ve been homeschooling my two youngest. Our lives are our children’s lives, and we’ve spent countless hours teaching them how to cook, wash clothes, and make life goals. We’ve listened to their hopes and dreams, played, vacationed, laughed, and loved.
And here is where the returns come into play.
Graduation weekend arrived with a flurry of activity. I planned the graduation ceremony for my homeschooled daughter and three other young women, and this included setting-up displays, running through the service, organizing food for the reception, and entertaining a house full of company. (And don’t forget we were still checking off wedding R.S.V.P.’s and ordering flowers under the radar.)
The graduation ceremony was lovely: families attending, friends congratulating, everyone enjoying the particular talents and achievements of each child honored. We soaked in every minute, restored order to the facility, and returned home to a house full of joyful friends and family.
As we relaxed, eating lunch and discussing the events of the day, the bride-to-be called my husband and me into the living room. I spotted her holding a gift bag behind her back. I couldn’t imagine why, as we had already given all the graduation gifts.
She began to speak, “Mom and Dad, we love you both so much. We know this weekend is your 25th anniversary, but because of graduation and the upcoming wedding, you haven’t had time to celebrate. We just wanted to show our love for you and our thanks for everything you’ve done for us.”
She handed me the gift bag, which had a picture frame inside. I pulled it out, and there was a snapshot of a cruise ship with our faces superimposed onto two buff, swimsuited bodies!
“It’s a cruise to the Bahamas in October!” she exclaimed.
I burst into tears in front of everyone. “Are you SERIOUS?!?”
She explained that all four of our kids and soon-to-be son-in-law had pitched in to purchase this dream vacation for us.
Moms, this is a moment in history that I will never forget.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! My kids had given sacrificially and unselfishly so that we could have something nice to commemorate our silver anniversary. They demonstrated back to us what we’d been showing them for years.
For a moment, it all came back to me: all the nights I was up washing sheets and comforting a child with the stomach bug. All the ballgames, sleepovers, and birthday parties, time spent taxiing kids, cleaning, washing, cooking, and the countless other things moms do. I do it because I love my kids. Who else loves your kids more than you? Kids are a ton of work, but who is more deserving of your love, time, and energy?
I would do it all again, regardless of the outcome, but having that moment of ‘payback’ was one I will always cherish. It reminded me how all the little things I do as a parent really do add up.
This Valentines Day, I hope you cherished that little construction paper heart. I hope you enjoyed the breakfast in bed, the poorly-frosted sugar cookie, or the little homemade doo-dad that was presented to you in love. Don’t worry, the gifts will improve over time. But it’s not about that, it’s about the developing sacrificial love behind the gifts. That’s the greatest reward: your children’s appreciation for you being Mom and their recognition of the ways that their parents and others are sacrificing for them.
QUESTION: Can you remember a special time when you realized your child was giving sacrificially?
CHALLENGE: This week, think of a sacrificial gift or act of service that you can give to your own parents or to someone in your life who has served you. This could be as simple as sacrificing an hour from your busy day to write your parents a heartfelt thank-you note or as involved as sacrificing some of your resources to send them on a surprise trip.
Photos courtesy of Ruthie Gray