I’ve often said that my least favorite stages of childhood are teething and potty training. It’s true, these times can be frustrating and tiring. And when you’re in the middle of them, it seems like those days will never end. My husband and I have been blessed with a very unique perspective. Our seven children range in age from 4 months old up to 23 (and include a son-in-law and granddaughter). What we know, is that babies grow up quickly. Too quickly. From infant to baby to toddler to little girl or boy to child to teen to …. gone. The days go by faster than you’d ever imagine.
Our oldest lives on the other side of the country. We’re lucky if we see her twice a year. Yesterday our second child left to return to school. For some reason, saying goodbye this time was harder than when he left in August. Maybe it was because in August he left three days after we welcomed our littlest into the world and I was still on a newborn high. Maybe it’s because when he left we had just ended a whirlwind few days that included hosting a party for 50 or so people, giving birth less than two hours after the last guests left, preparing for a coming hurricane, losing power (and running water) due to the hurricane, getting oldest son and husband ready to go, getting power back an hour before they left…. yes, all true and all within 3 days…. and I didn’t have time to think about feeling sad.
We know that Josh will be home in April (I’ll be booking his trip sometime this week), but this leaving thing is hard. I think it has become harder because this time we know. We know that he’ll be gone for a while and that, while Skype is amazing (and free!), it isn’t the same as being in the same house. We know that he’ll grow and change and need us less, and that’s the way things are supposed to be, but it’s still hard to let go. We know that this is only the beginning of the leaving. He’ll leave again and again, and one of these times he’ll leave for good. We know, because we’ve already had one child leave, never to return. Oh, she comes back, but she’s no longer our child. Now she’s a wife and a mother. And we know that we’ll experience the leaving five more times. And I think that it doesn’t get easier, but that each leaving will be harder.
So this is the curse of parenting. We pour our hearts into our children. We give them everything we have. And if we do it right they leave. They pursue the path that God has for them and it is good. But it is hard for those of us left behind. So if you see me looking wistfully at my middles and my littles, it might be because I’m counting the time we have left. Because I know how quickly it goes by.