Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Crisis of the Countdown

One of the things I'm passionate about when I'm talking to a young mom or giving advice at a baby shower is not to fear the different stages of growth with your kids.  Yes, time is fleeting, and the cuddling, always sleeping (but never for long stretches at night) stage of a newborn is not going to last forever, but sometimes it's not all bad.  (Terrible two's anyone?)

My mom told us when we were teenagers that each successive stage was her favorite - that she wouldn't go back in time for any of it because she was so happy with the people we'd become and the time she had "right now" to spend with us.  Bless my mom for saying that - and I'm very thankful that she was able to feel that way in all the angst we gave her as teens!

It hasn't been easy letting go of the fears of "what will be" when they reach each successive stage.  I remember watching a mom who's son was several years older than mine and it was not even third grade when he started acting like he wanted nothing to do with her.  So, then, it was third grade I had to worry about.  Or, my own experiences as a middle school teacher teaching me that it was rare indeed to find middle school aged girls that cared about other people besides just themselves.  (I was terrified of having a girl for that reason).

But, my kids are not their kids - and my fears were largely unfounded.  There have been obstacles along the way - but, they weren't what I was anxious about, so it was useless to have worried.  (Which is generally the case!).  Indeed, as our kids have grown, they have given me reason to repeat the same thing my mom said all those years ago.  Thank you God. 

But, now - even after all these lessons - the anxiety is back.  Not necessarily because of what I fear is yet to come, but kind of because the little time I have left to worry about.  Brayden is almost 16.  He has just a little over two full years left of high school left - and then?!  All of a sudden, my statements about what we'll do in the future as a family are tainted by this realization.  When I say, "This was so fun, we should do this every year" (as I did this weekend regarding our weekend skiing), I stumble over my words thinking that we might just have two more years to do this.  When we talk about Christmas traditions, birthday celebrations, annual camping trips - all of it, I honestly choke back tears (as I'm doing right now).
Wasn't this just yesterday?
And, I'm realizing, this is just as paralyzing as the other kind of worry.  There's no script that says it has to be a certain way with Brayden or Mikayla - there never has been.  And, God has been faithful every step of the way - not to act in the fear or worry, as that's not of Him, but to give me every strength needed through the actual experience.

Right now, that experience (and strength needed) is hard to define.  Brayden is becoming his own man - and yet, is still so much....not.  He's about 5'5" these days and around 120 pounds - a far cry from the under 5 foot and under 100 pounds he started high school at 18 months ago.  And, the change hasn't just been physically.  It's been so hard for John and I to adjust to the distance that happens - and IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN as he gets older.  We have just been so blessed for so long with a kid that has wanted our company 24/7 - that now his independence, while deserved, feels painful.   And, as a mom (and I know John feels the same way as a dad), I'm kind of grieving.  Then there's all this extra stuff like ADHD and having to nag about grades, or self-centeredness or irresponsibility towards the family that make us not "like" him as much (we'll always love him, but some days the affection isn't as strong...) and that contributes too.  And, then, other days, when he does things with Whitley, or you catch a glimpse of what he means to his classmates and friends, that my heart just soars and I think, "What does this other stuff matter, I'm so proud of this guy!".  It's the way it is as a parent...the way its supposed to be as we have to move them front rear facing car seat, to front facing car seat, to booster seat, to back seat, and then to the driver's seat.  As we let go of these restraints a little at a time and let them take more risk.  And, someday, you hand those keys over and figuratively and literally hope they steer straight and make good choices.

In the last hour, we've found out that on our drive home, we just missed....within a block away and minutes away - a mom and her three children struck as they walked in a crosswalk across the street.  They were struck by a truck.  The three children (4 and under) were killed instantly - and the mom is in the hospital.

Earlier this week, a mom had to clean out her freshman daugther's dorm of her belongings as she passed away suddenly to a strain of meningitis.  She was on the first place national team of Acrobatics and Tumbling at the UofO - a dream of hers.  One day she was feeling a little off at practice - the next day she went into cardiac arrest and died.

There is no guarantee that we'll be given any of these days at any of these stages with any of our children.  So, the last thing I need to do is spend vast amounts of each of those moments focused on those things that are not worth battling.  But, even worse, is being paralyzed in the "crisis of the countdown", missing out on the gifts of the here and now because I'm too worried about will be.

Oh dear parent readers out there, bless you and your journey with your kids.   This journey, it is a scary one, (I can't imagine those who do it without a trust in God who has a plan in even the darkest hour....) but, at EVERY stage - such a deep reward.

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