It has been coming on for a while now, but I suddenly feel like a neon sign is constantly flashing these words in front of my face:
“Hold on to Your Hats and Glasses While You Watch Time Disappear.”
Perhaps that is because Jordan is learning to drive and that he is still nervous to get behind the wheel…just like I was at his age.
Perhaps it is because he just went out on his first date…to Prom…and, he is the same age as I was when Greg and I went on our first date 21 years ago.
Perhaps it is related to the fact that Andrew is getting so tall that it has become nearly impossible to find pants long enough to fit his legs, and small enough to fit his waist. (He is 6’1″ and 130 pounds of pure awesomeness.) He has passed both Greg and Jordan in height, with no hint of stopping anytime soon.
Maybe it is somewhat related to the stack of mail that comes each day for Jordan from colleges across the country. “Come here,” they say. “Come join us on our campus that is hundreds…even thousands…of miles away from your family.”
It might be due in part to the blaring reality that my little girl is not a little girl anymore. She is always asking me if she looks OK…if her make-up is on right…if her clothes look “weird.” She cannot get enough of texting about boys and crushes, and flirting has become second nature to her.
Or maybe it is all about the fact that Carson has grown so big that he doesn’t fit on my lap very well anymore, even though he still climbs there to snuggle every Sunday during church. Part of me wants to put him down on the bench beside me so that he stops wiggling and messing up my skirt, but the bigger part of me wants to hold him like that forever because I know that his days of sitting on my lap and holding my hand to cross the street are numbered.
Whatever the cause, I keep wondering what happened to these little kids.
When did they start to look all grown up?
I think it must have happened while I was sleeping, but here they are…so handsome, beautiful, and full of promise. The boys are starting to think about real life decisions…BIG decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. College, career paths, and church missions are creeping into the forefront of their minds, forcing them to figure out if they are heading down the paths that will allow them to accomplish their goals in each of those areas. I know that they have the potential to accomplish great things, and they are already proving that they can do that. I am so proud of the wonderful people that they are becoming. However, I still worry that they will leave home and realize that they are totally unprepared for real life because I failed to teach them adequately the things that were most important, despite my best efforts to do so. Frankly, I am terrified of doing this whole parenting thing all wrong…of somehow ruining my kids because of my lack of foresight. (Tell me that I am not the only one who worries about this…)
That, my friends, is the hardest part about raising children for me…the uncertainty. Child rearing feels like an experiment that leaves so much to chance because there is no guaranteed outcome, and no one right way to attain the results that you desire. There are countless ways to get from point A to point B and numerous things that can throw you way off course. That is both maddening and exhilarating.
The reality that it is my responsibility to prepare these little people to be contributing members of society weighs heavily on my mind, and I take that very seriously. Yet, I am realizing more and more as they grow up that is also my responsibility to step back and let them become who they dream of becoming. That is not to say that I am okay with them choosing to stand by and do nothing with their glorious lives, or that I should watch from the sidelines as they participate in self-destructive behaviors. You had better believe that I would jump in and intervene in those instances. I am talking more about doing all that I can to teach them to do good, and then trusting them to fly, even if their flight pattern is different from that one that I would have chosen for them. I often need to remind myself that although they are mine, they also came to earth with a unique mission of their own. They came with their own talents, passions, and desires, and I cannot discount the importance of those things in shaping the course of their lives.
Yes, the teenage years are a roller coaster of emotion for teens and parents alike. They are filled with sullen faces and moodiness one minute, followed by ridiculous jokes and laughter the next. They are filled with desires to be independent, but only if that independence does not create discomfort. They are lined with hopes and dreams as high as the moon, but also fears of what will happen if those dreams are not realized. They are years for kids to discover who they are and gradually separate themselves from their parents…and that is how it was always meant to be. Nevertheless, this process is both breaking my heart and filling it with hope for a bright future for these growing children of mine. I know that they will never become who they were meant to become unless I let go…a little at a time…and that starts right now.
I wish that I could just press the pause button and stop time…maybe forever. In the likely event that I cannot figure out how to do that, I suppose I will just keep trying to better understand and prepare these teenagers of mine for their impending flight from the nest. That will require me to step back a little more with each passing week and month, coaching more from the sidelines and less from the field. I will remind them often that they know how to play this game…that they have all the tools that they need to WIN. When they make mistakes, I will assure them that mistakes can be wonderful learning tools, and that giving up on something good is usually not the best option. I will remember that my kids are not going to forget these years, and act accordingly. When I make mistakes and lose my cool, as coaches sometimes do, I will apologize, regroup, and recommit to be better. We will learn and grow together as a team as we come to better understand our proper roles, which may take some trial and error, as this is a new experience for all of us.
Since I am unable to stop time, I will sure do my best to make the most of it…starting today…by loving those moody and wonderful teenagers of mine even more, and holding the little ones as much as I can while they are still little. These days are passing far too quickly.