Friday, September 25, 2015

Deep Thoughts on Growing Real People

This essay was a revision of another post that I wrote specifically for my group of homeschoolers.  It is a revision of the post "Bittersweet" from this summer.

In the seasons of ‘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.  The first day your 4-year-old doesn’t have to ride in the cart while walking through Target.  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.  For the first time, I have a child that is moved out of my home and onto an army base in Georgia.  In some ways, this has been 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.  It didn’t work out as he intended.  The Army wasn’t for him and he learned that the hard way, and as I write this, he is finishing up his last two weeks before he is released back into the world, for the first time, without my home to cushion his fall.  I want to say I am positive he will be fine, but I just don’t know.

 I spent a lot of my time right now, between a rant and a prayer, hoping that God hears both. 
There are so many 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? 

I remember a morning, not long ago, where 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.  

A sweet and tiny nest fell out of our huge fir tree a couple of weeks ago. It had no eggs in it, so I'm assuming the birds were fledged and gone. It was so perfect I brought it inside and set it on my shelf near my favorite books, which are placed in a rainbow by the color of their worn and elderly covers. Every time I look at the nest, I am reminded of my one who just ‘left the nest’.  I wonder if the nest I have built for him is sturdy enough to survive after he is gone. Will he be able to carry it with him into his new life and continue all the lessons I have set, painstakingly string by string wrapped around his young life? Will each piece be able to hold him until he doesn't need them anymore, setting them aside when he's truly ready to be done with them?

All I can do is hope.

I am not really 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 alongside 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*? Can they see that I chose this life, slowly and intentionally?  Because I love it. Because spending time with them fills me up as much as it wears me out.  Because in the end, my children are my very favorite people.

I want to be fully embedded in each season I am in.  I want to feel, and love, and watch with awe all of the amazing moments around me.  I am in a season of my family. Learning and loving and enjoying each other.  This will only be for a little while.  The moments with each of them are ticking away by the second.  A month goes by in a flash.  The days are long, but the years are fleeting.  And I wouldn’t want to miss this life for the world.

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.  I was 18.  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 they see are something that they can build a life on.

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