As of today, I am no longer the mother of children. My youngest turns 18.

What a strange thing! The main identity that I have had for twenty years now is over. I’m still a mom, but in a different way.

I’ve been leading up to this all summer, especially with my older daughter’s wedding, but it’s still bittersweet. My husband and I will be reinventing ourselves as a couple this year–I talked about it in this post (and don’t forget to comment there for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!)–and I’m excited about that. But it seems almost for the last two weeks like I’ve been walking through a shadow of ghosts. I turn my head and I can hear a little three-year-old voice laughing with her five-year-old sister. Somehow I hope those voices never entirely disappear.

Katie and I are spending today together in New York City. I took her here for her birthday.

Enjoying exploring Manhattan with my daughter!

A photo posted by Sheila Gregoire (@sheilagregoire) on

Needless to say, I’ve had the Taylor Swift song running through my head all day. ? #WelcomeToNewYork A photo posted by Katie Gregoire? (@katielizg) on

But the big reason we’re here is that she’s a musical theatre buff, so we decided to go see Les Miserables!

Les Mis

It was incredible. The 7-year-old who played Gavroche stole the show, as usual, but it truly was spectacular.

If you’ve never seen or read Les Miserables, it was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, about the poverty and desperation in France. But rather than being a primarily historical novel, it really is an exploration of the difference between grace and the law, represented by two of the main characters: Jean Valjean (grace) and Javert (the law). Jean Valjean is a poor man who was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour for an insignificant crime he committed to save a starving child.

Javert is his jailer. When Valjean is released, he skips out on parole and makes a new life for himself after being shown grace from a priest. Javert spends the next twenty years chasing him and trying to find him, while Valjean helps others and tries to make life around him better.

There is tragedy galore in this play; an abandoned woman must work in a sweat factory to support her daughter, but is thrown out on the street and dies. Peasants struggle for bread, and in the end die in a vain attempt at revolution. It is sad.

And the story of unrequited love–of a girl who gives all for a boy who loves another–is tragic in its own right.

And yet the message is that God weaves His own tale into the destruction and that in the midst of suffering people can find grace and salvation. You see it in the final song; the movie version below seems a little more political at the end than the feel of the Broadway presentation, but that great line–“to love another person is to see the face of God”–rings true (it’s at about 1:28 in this clip).

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14It’s a profoundly Christian play, but it made me think again about a post that I shared on Facebook yesterday about waiting on God. I think as mothers we feel that our job will be done when our children’s lives are all set on autopilot: when they are married; when they have good jobs; when they have children of their own. Above all, when they are happy.

And we work towards that. We pray for it. And that’s all well and good.

But God could have a different plan, and maybe it is in the struggling of this life that that plan will emerge.

I think this is the hardest part of a child growing up–of realizing that you cannot control their life, you cannot fix things, anymore. They are on their own to make their own choices, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

And as I was watching the play yesterday, I realized I was excited to see what God will do with Katie in the next four years at university. I’m excited to see what choices she will make, and what friends she will make, and where God will take her.

I will find it hard to step back; the two of us are very close, and we talk about everything. But growing up is good, and no matter what happens, God is at work and grace is real.

It’s been a lovely trip in New York. We’re out to explore Central Park today and then we’re heading down to the World Trade Center memorial.

Here’s a post her older sister wrote to Katie for her 18th: 18 things I wish I knew when I was 18.

And if you want to give her a birthday present, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you shared one of her videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! Here are three of my favourites: Courting vs. Dating; Why I’m Not Dating in High School; and Christian Modesty, the Double Standard. Thank you!

Now tell me: what is hardest for you about your kids growing up (or thinking about them growing up)?

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