I was working through the 2018 family budget this evening, assigning values to line items like birthdays, outings, holidays, etc. By birthdays, I listed out the ages my children will turn this year- 15,13,11,10,7- and then stared at the numbers in disbelief. Where did the time go?
How is it possible that my children are no longer “little” children, but teens and tweens and a little girl who will always be my “baby” but is certainly no longer a baby at all? I think I still have them all trapped in my mind as small children; it is hard to imagine my oldest being just three years away from college.
How do I release them- free them- to become the young adults they are already well on their way toward becoming? How do I redeem what little time I have left to undo the mistakes I have made along the way?
Tears sprang to my eyes at the realization that these years are indeed flying by, just like everyone said they would. I want to go back, to try again, to do things better and cherish the time I’ve had with them, instead of whiling or wishing it away. I want to imprint grace and love and acceptance on their hearts instead of criticism and judgment and neglect. I want to take back the countless hours I have put my phone ahead of them, failing to look into their eyes as they shared their stories and dreams and endless chattering with me.
So many “I want to’s” I can’t even begin to list them all. And, the awful truth of it is that I can’t go back. I can’t change anything. I can only live in this moment and look ahead to determine how I can make the most of the short time I have left with them under my roof.
Today, I met with a friend, and we were comparing pictures of our short hairstyles from a few years ago. She showed me a family Christmas photo from 2014- just three, short years ago- and I couldn’t help but look at her four children in awe. So much has changed in their lives since then, but in this one picture, their childish innocence remained, with sweet smiles and carefree (and goofy) expressions. My heart ached for my friend, who now deals with teenage angst and childish rebellion. I encouraged her to look again at those young faces, hoping that she would remember who these difficult children she now deals with once were, not so long ago. It is something I need to do, too.
I need to remember that the exasperating, infuriating, button-pushing young people living in my home are the babies I carried inside of me and fed from my own body. They are the toddlers who delighted and charmed me with every new milestone, and the preschoolers who amazed me with their capacity to learn and embrace the world around them. They are still today the undeserved, gracious gifts God has given me to bring Him glory. And they do. They bring Him glory in their joyous worship, in their small kindnesses, in their free forgiveness, in their helpful ways, in their desire to know Him and to share Him with others.
Another friend who is unexpectedly and delightedly pregnant (as she approaches 40) shared that her doctor did a blood test from which they can extract the babies’ blood from her own and examine the chromosomes to determine the gender and any other pertinent information. The DNA from our babies remains inside of us even after they leave our bodies. My children will forever be a part of me, both emotionally and physiologically. (Well, I’m not entirely certain about the latter, but you get the idea.)
What am I getting at here? I guess I am coming to a realization about some changes I want to make moving forward into this and the next few years. I am resolving to:
- Praise my children individually, at least once per day. I will look for the good and acknowledge it.
- Stop what I am doing and look my children in the eye when we are speaking to each other (or make arrangements to do so as soon as possible- and not forget!)
- See my children for who they really are and rejoice instead of seeing all the things that I think need improving or changing.
- Give my children the freedom to grow and become instead of holding them trapped in time in my mind.
- Be intentional about playing, reading, listening, and being present with my children.
- Be open to change and growth- both God changing/growing me as a parent and my children changing/growing into young adults.
- Let the short-term annoyances and frustrations go in order to advance the relationship with my children. As a father of adult children said to me tonight, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on what really matters.”
This parenting stuff is hard, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier as they get older. My mistakes from the past seem like glaring imperfections on the surface of my children’s lives now, but the layers underneath are where their true treasure hides. I hope to bring that treasure into the light of God’s glory and grace, in His time and by His grace in their lives and mine.