My daughter turns eighteen this week and I find contemplation and memories and happiness for her all rolled into one big heart-shaped pattern. I could say so many things. Things like, the time really does go so fast. Things like, how unexpectedly you find yourself with children grown. Things like, how calendars keep turning and birthdays keep coming at us in rapid succession.
Things like how thrilled I am for her to try new things and how much I pray for her and how much I have hopes and dreams, for her hopes and dreams, to play out in a beautiful way for her.
Mothering is a terrifical and a terrible thing. Fantastic and frightening. Wonderful and weighty.
Watching first toddly steps, watching children try new things, watching wings stretch out to fly………exhilarating and a gasping for air all at the same time.
Somehow that mother instinct to protect runs deep, and watching hurts and stumbles and picking up and dusting off from stumbles, is such a part of mama-ing. It becomes second nature and then that toddler grows and I can’t protect them from everything, nor is it in their best benefit.
Feelings will be hurt.
Wrongs will happen.
We don’t always make the team or win first place or get to be the leader. And that’s ok.
Children need to learn to give and take. To rejoice with others and to realize disappointments happen, but we still can choose our attitudes. Sometimes that mothering protection has to be pressed down hard and I must take a step back.
Letting go and letting them grow.
Moving from childhood to tweendom to teendom and hovering on the brink of adulthood.
Days. Years. Moments.
So many beautiful memories.
This turning from the number seventeen right on in to eighteen made me think of these words penned, years ago, in a black and white composition book of mine. Somehow it seemed like the right time to bring them into black and white letters on a screen this week.
Memories and growing up. Such a medley it is!
And I find myself wandering back across these words I wrote when eighteen still seemed a long, long time away for us.
I didn’t really see it coming.
Oh, I KNEW it was coming. I just didn’t expect……well, I’m not sure what I didn’t expect.
I contemplate on it a bit.
I didn’t expect it to hit me so hard and leave me feeling so………..sad.
It’s been a lot of years and a lot of memories and I am NOT ready to say good-bye.
I have a sentimental streak. I knew that.
I just didn’t realize how deep it ran.
I knew it was coming…………I just didn’t think……yet………..
And then. There it was. Unannounced.
I climbed the staircase to talk to my son and as I walked by the closet there she was.
Dollclothes packed away and suitcase closed. Doll-sized posters removed from the closet walls and living room furniture packed up.
Jenna and Nicki and Addy and Josefina tucked into boxes with their special treasures. All neatly combed and dressed in the outfits they arrived in.
“Hey Mom!” she smiled. And I smiled back and then pretended to cry and INSIDE I was really crying because my girl, my pretender, my imaginer, is growing up!!!
Oh, I’m glad. We can’t stop it, nor do we really want to, but a big part of me does want to reach right over and hit the REWIND button and hold on a little longer. I want to listen to the happy chatter and pretend play as Kaya canoes up the river or Josefina weaves a blanket on her loom or Nicki jumps onto her horse to gallop away.
I knew it was coming. The packing up of dear, old friends along with their things. She may pull them out again now and then, but deep down I know she is lovingly tucking them away for someday.
Someday, when perhaps, another little girl, who will remind me a whole, whole lot of a little girl who once chattered around our house, will delight in pulling them out of their boxes. Perhaps at her house or possibly at Grandma’s house.
And what blessings and memories we’ve had!!! This world contains a whole, whole lot of suffering and brokenness and devastation and I am not ignorant of this. None of us are. Neither can we be or are we, immune to it. Broken homes. Rough circumstances. Families without food. Dolls and memories aren’t written into every story. I am acutely aware of this.
Though the sweet doll faces peek out of the boxes and bring me pangs of sadness, they speak deep of blessing too. My heart is beyond grateful for everyday life. For happy children. For every hour spent in innocent, imaginative play.
These tears. They will come. They have a mind of their own and slip and slide down my cheeks. One bounces off and away. They speak good, too. Because they are a happy sadness. They spring up unbidden because of happy memories. Because parting is such sweet sorrow.
Childhood, I can’t keep you here forever. I wouldn’t if I could. We’re not designed for that. I will say, THANK-YOU, Childhood, for every happy day, for every giggle, every memory made, every pretend play. It matters. I wish it was the normal everywhere. It is gift. Hugely, breathtakingly, amazingly magnificent gift.
We mamas, we are this way. Some days we simply wish for a few quiet moments and then these days creep up and leave us wide-eyed and wondering how the moments, loud and quiet, have swept along so quickly and WHERE has Childhood tip-toed off to?
Each year. Each age. It has its blessings and its burdens. I don’t miss potty-training or wrestling car seats. I don’t miss diapers or bending in half over a bathtub or getting up at night.
I do miss ear-to-ear baby grins and tickling double chins. I do miss funny words tumbling from little mouths. I do miss trips to the park and the pool and the library. I do miss scooters and ripsticks and watching sister and brother climb on the roof of the Little Tikes house. I do miss McDonald’s Happy Meals and lollipops at the bank drive-thru. I do miss taking pictures of little people.
I won’t get mired there, though. For each stage brings joys and new adventures and new skills.
Childhood, I see you slipping into the edges, the shadows. I see tweendom advancing and it’s ok. It really is. It will bring its happiness and heart-felt fun in different ways.
No, I won’t let myself hang out too long in the chasing childhood, but I will miss you, sweet doll faces, adventures and explorings and I know the occasional tear will find its way from my heart and down my cheek.
Bravo yesterday! Bravo today! Bravo tomorrow!
I bow to you and whisper thank-you once again.