Our Kiddo is halfway through the fifth grade now. Hard to believe. Seems like just yesterday I was walking her to her first day of school at her new school in January 2012. I cried that day with joy. And still all these years later I am amazed that every morning when I send her out the door I still feel a little pang of maternal protectiveness and sadness that I have to send her out into the big world alone, even though I know she's excited and wants to go.
It seems that in parenthood, we're always looking to get out of the current phase, newborn sleeplessness, diapers, potty training, nigh terrors, peeing the bed, toddler tantrums and right on up to disrespectful tweens and limits-pushing teenagers. There is so much talk about "Ugh, these kids, this day!"
But one thing no one ever really prepares you for or perhaps we can't be prepared for is how fast it all goes. It seems that every empty nester gets it. Truly the days ARE long but the years ARE short. With ever passing year they become more independent and more excited about things happening away from you and away from home.
Oh, to have more of this perspective when they are tiny and be able to drink it in more - those days when they think the entire universe revolves around you, your arms, your smile, your hugs and kisses. Just like an infant, every week or so, our kiddo looks different: older, taller and right now, more gangly. She's exhausted from growing and learning and seeing so much every day. I still even now, need to be reminded to enjoy these days. When I can't understand why her room is a mess, even when she cleans it every day. When we are talked back to. When a few minutes of screen time results in grumpy, zombie behavior.
I know that 18 is not far away. I remember when she was three years old and very much wanted to do something that you have to be 12 years old to do. I remember how we talked about it being nine more years until she would be old enough. In a few weeks she will be 11 and after that it will be just 12 short months until she turns 12. Where did that time go?!
Because she is the only kid we'll ever raise in our household- and certainly not by choice - I think the pain of her growing up may be a little more acute. We got one chance and soon enough it will be over. No chance to experiment on another kid or fix mistakes we have learned. No other toddlers to hug and kiss and be agitated with when they draw crayons on the furniture or red permanent marker on the white kitchen floor.
Every morning as I hear the sliding door close behind her and the "love you"s and "have a great day"s have been hollered across the house, I feel a little sad for us, but try to always remember to be happy and excited for her. She wants to go out into the world...and she must. But I wonder now if it always pains a mother's heart a little to send her little ones out of the nest, knowing they'll come back now and then but that the time will get shorter and shorter each time.
What amazing lessons parenthood teachers us and how much bravery it requires! I made a comment on a social post about motherhood the other day saying not only is raising a child difficult but it becomes even more challenging because we're also raising ourselves as parents. That is not easy. But what a fantastic experience God has given us, in whatever capacity it may come, as a parent, extended family member or family friend to be a part of a child's life, to see life through their eyes and have the chance to inspire, guide and love them -- and BE loved by them. I'm glad it stings a little every day because it reminds me to be grateful and present in that moment.