As I write this, my little girl is deciding what she’s going to wear her first day of high school.
My Baby Girl. In High School.
I’ve written a column or two before about how fast the parenting years fly by. There was the “I can’t believe they are starting kindergarten,” to the “I can’t believe they’ve finished elementary school,” and the shock of my oldest starting middle school, then high school….
And now, my youngest—who is, by the way, far taller than me now—is excited and a little nervous to be starting her high school career.
She’s excited. I’m stunned.
She will do very well. She’s organized, smart and very conscientious. She has great and loyal friends. She has a devoted family, plus great confidence and self-esteem. So good, so far.
But the other part of this whole equation is how I am no longer counting the years that my oldest will be home. I’m down to months. Twenty-three to be exact. He’s starting his junior year, so about 23 months from today, I will be waving goodbye to him at his college dorm. I’m actually starting to pin ideas for graduation parties and think about how to put his scrapbooks together.
I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly far away that all once seemed.
Over the years, we have attended many graduation parties for the children of friends, but my kids were the ones playing on the swings or chasing each other around the yard. Thinking of them as one day being the honoree being asked, “So, have you decided what you want to study?” or “Where are you going to college?” or “Do you know what you want to do for a career?” seemed like a far, far distant eventuality. I mean, these were my little kids, after all.
But there it is—time has moved on. I am now the parent of two amazing high school kids. We will spend this school year talking about ACT scores, college visits, and dreams for the future. We will have crazy schedules, as many meals together as we can, and important conversations about working hard and being kind. I will continue to hold my breath until my 16-year-old driver makes it home safely every night.
A couple of years ago I begged young mothers to listen when someone older reminded them how short their time was with their children.
One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, her babies will no longer throw fits in the grocery store, have meltdowns during church, or poop all over her clean floor.
One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, she and her husband will yet again be able to have a date without having to worry about a babysitter.
One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, there will no longer be sticky fingers on her sofa, a washing machine filled with the evidence of two children sick at 3 a.m., and no more frantic calls to the doctor when the fever spikes at 102.
As these things begin to disappear, so will the other things. That sweet baby smell when they first come out of the bath. The toddler who crawls into your lap for kisses. The preschooler so excited to show you how he can write his name. Or ride a bike. In all of the busyness that is our lives, during days that sometimes seem like they will never end, things begin to slip away. And you barely notice it until it’s too late.
And then, when you do realize it, sometimes you cry.
Because unless someone reminds you, you forget that you are in a season of your life. A very, very important season—where you have the privilege of being the parent of young children. And although the days can be long, difficult, and challenging, the time is so very, very short.
So, I guess as I head into this last phase of parenting my kids at home, I wanted to revisit my encouragement to parents of younger children. Keep it all in perspective. Be mindful of what stuff matters and what really doesn’t. Most stuff doesn’t.
Your kids do.