In the seasons of parenting or ‘people growing’ there is often a time of release. Sometimes gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle. I remember so many of these release-driven moments. Days where you sit and ponder the choice to let the 9-year-old go to the movie theater bathroom by himself, and bite your nails until he is safely in the seat beside you again. Days where you wonder if you truly did completely screw up that 14-year-olds life, as he just told you you did. Days where you don’t want to let her leave the house because you finally read that ‘sex-offenders in your area’ notice that came in the mail… two months ago. Days where you have been up all night long with a sick or crying child and two need lessons and the big one needs shoes again and you just wonder when it is all going to stop…
Well folks. It is only a season. I won’t go into the ‘embrace the chaos, it doesn’t last’ speeches, which many do in their moment of realization that childhood is really a short phase in life. But it really is a short and tender season where emotions are higher than they ever will be again with that child and so often you just want to get off that bus at the next available stop.
There is a stopping point for me in just 6 months. For the first time, I will have a child that is moving out of my home …
and (Lord, help me) onto an army base in Georgia. In some ways, this is a very sweet reprise in the long, hard road of parenting. This particular kid has been a struggle for a while, as many teens are. And through this choice, which was all his own, I have seen some of that beautiful man I always hoped and prayed would be inside this boy. But there are moments of quite release where I sit and tearfully wonder if I could have done anything different. Anything that would have made his path easier. Should I have spent more time with him, should I have pushed him harder, been more strict, more inclusive, more understanding? Can he balance a checkbook? Do his taxes? Make himself a meal that doesn’t include cup-o-noodles? Does he understand anything of the ‘real world’ and what does that phrase include these days anyway?
This morning I woke up to an 8-year-old laying on the floor near my bed and my 4-year-old laying with his arm across my neck like a very heavy, sweaty scarf. The two older kids were already up, one making his own breakfast while texting some other poor soul that was conscious at 6:40am and the other out in the frosty morning, tending to the animals she spent years begging me to get. I was struck by how gently fleeting it all is. Time marches on. Ready to pounce each time you take a break to watch the newest season of Downton Abbey in a week long Netflix-binge.
And after a couple more Netflix-binge weeks and passing seasons; it will be the snuggly newly 4-year-old, who currently gets mad if you peel his banana wrong… and that child… he will be the next one going off in to the wide blue yonder to get his own life and balance his own checkbook and I will be wondering if he will be able to make his own meals without me.
I am not sad that my children are growing up.
That’s kind of a lie. It is SO bittersweet!
But I have enjoyed each and every phase of their lives and I am so glad I chose to stay home with them and live my life deliberately along side them.
I do often wonder that with all these moments we are making, do they see them the same as I do? Will the oldest look back in 2 or 3 or 10 years and wonder why in the world I took him out of public school and what was I thinking with that whole ‘organic food thing’? Will they ever really *get it*?
My favorite quote for parenting has always been from Robert Fulghum’s It was on fire when I lay down on it: It is included in an essay called “Family Man”. It is advice for his son who is having his first baby.
“Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
I read this book my first year in college when the oldest was around a year old. This one quote has truly stuck by me all of these years in between. What a powerful sentiment. That it isn’t what you say, but what you do that shapes your children. I guess I will just have to trust that the things he saw was something that he can build a life on.