“They grow up too fast,” I mumbled to myself as I watched my four year-old write his name for the first time. I swear just yesterday he thought green was the only color, and I was certain he would make it to high school without knowing the sky is in fact blue. Was I not up late rocking him to sleep just last week? And wasn’t it a few days ago when I had the painstaking task of potty training him?
That’s parenting for you. It’s like Groundhog Day for months and then in one instantaneous moment your kid sleeps through the night, or takes his first steps, or walks out the door to board his first school bus. In so many ways it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, but in the same fleeting breath you’re trying desperately to hold on to the precious moments being left behind.
There is a twinge of angst that accompanies each new stage—a pit, a vacancy, a longing for one more taste of those sweet moments past. Like I wrote a few weeks ago, that twinge can often feel like guilt. It feels like I missed something or didn’t cherish every moment sweetly enough, because I will never again hear my son say “capapilla” for caterpillar or “black baby” for blackberry. (That one’s probably for the best though, because nothing is more offensive than when your two-year-old says, “I eat black babies.” You can imagine the looks.)
When the seasons have passed, my mom guilt sends absurd thoughts through my head, like: “I should have stared at him sleeping for one more hour” or “I should have recorded him saying ‘capapilla’” or “I should have read Good Night Moon 10 more times”. In these instances, I believe that if I had completed those tasks, my parenting appetite would be satiated, my cup would over flow and I would enter this new stage without an ounce of remorse.
But this can’t possibly be true, can it? Is it ever possible to get our fill of the sweet moments – especially if we must endure the difficult ones alongside of them? If God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 is true that God “knows the plans He has for you, plans of good and not of evil, plans to bring you hope and a future” then who am I to feel guilty about leaving behind precious seasons when He is promising me hope and a future?
After deeply wrestling with these feelings, I’ve discovered the vacancy that accompanies a new season is not one of guilt, but one of grace. It’s not that our kids are growing up too fast, but rather they are growing at a rate that keeps us perfectly satisfied and not overstuffed. As I analyzed this new discovery, I began to consider a world where kids didn’t just grow up too fast, but rather didn’t grow up at all.
Imagine parenting a two-year-old for forty years. The two-year-old never gets any older, but rather stays two F.O.R.E.V.E.R.—never learns another word, gains another ounce, or successfully accomplishes a new task. We would have enforced hundreds of time outs, changed millions of diapers, watched marathons of Peppa Pig, received thousands of two-year-old hugs, and heard the word “capapilla” countless times. There were certainly cherished moments, but would we not be painfully overstuffed from this stagnant forty-year season? I don’t know about you, but I would deeply desire a transition. After all, some of the most cherished moments are witnessing the ‘firsts’. And since every ‘first’ comes at the expense of a ‘last’, would we be willing to sacrifice all newness just to hold on to the moments we love? I don’t think I could.
You see, dear reader, time is both a burglar and a benefactor—kidnapping our children’s ‘lasts’ while granting permission for dazzling ‘firsts’. It can’t be one without the other. So, could it not be that this pit in my stomach is a sweet sign of grace? An endearing protection from feeling overstuffed of a season. A plan so perfect that only a loving and merciful God could create it so beautifully. Because of this twinge of grace, we are given the glorious opportunity to leave every parenting season with a sweet taste lingering in our mouth, perfectly satisfied with the amount of love and hardship the season required.
In the meantime, we will experience all the flavors of a season - Sour days and sugary minutes. Moments of bitterness and Candy-coated hours. Bland weeks that will be expunged by the sweetness of the years. Our parenting stomach will always have room for one more sweet taste, but this is simply God-inspired portion control to prevent us from becoming overstuffed. Soak up the sweetness that each season has to offer, but don’t let your desire for one more taste turn into paralyzing guilt. Our kids aren’t growing up too fast, mama, they are simply growing up according to the Master’s plan – the sweet plan He promised us in Jeremiah – and that is eternally satisfying.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.