“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
From where I sit on the front stoop…
I see her walk through across the yard in her bare feet. I imagine the coolness of the overgrown grass between her toes, wet from a morning rainstorm. I watch her reach high into the branches of a nearby bush, stretching her long arms and raising to the tips of her toes to find just the right one to break off. Her hair, fuzzy from the damp summer air, is curling into ringlets where it brushes against her shoulders. As usual, it falls lazily across her right eye, a picture of defiance that echoes her own spirit.
As she turns toward me, leafy stick in hand, the pink flowers of her favorite dress swinging with each step, I see that her eyes are full of mischief and childish joy at her success. And I am consumed by this moment. Her smallness, her innocence, her bursts of rebellion, her purity and exuberance, her ever-expanding range of emotions – this tender age mesmerizes me. The concentric circles she has sailed around me, her mother, for the last four years are widening before my eyes. Her thoughts become more complex, her personhood more vast and mysterious with each passing day.
It seem so obvious.
We take our children’s progression from infancy into adolescence and eventual adulthood for granted. Yet the intensity of this part of motherhood has come as a complete surprise to me, this dichotomous desire to hold tight and to let go at the same time. I want to watch her run bravely forward into the world, stick raised high, her face full of optimism and anticipation of her adventures. But I also long to see her turn back to me, to curl up into my arms, and to need me as she always has. I want to inhale deeply the scent of her head, to plant kisses onto her warm cheeks, and to whisper secrets to one another as we cuddle before sleep.
This is a sweet season.
It is a beautiful place to be as we rest on the precipice between infancy and youth, between helplessness and independence from one another. I feel as if I am able to somehow have my cake and eat it, too; that I am able to nudge her gently forward into new experiences yet still trust that she will return to me as my baby at the end of the day.
One day she will become completely separate and detached from me, though, and it is just as it should be. What is the goal of parenting these small ones if not to see them off into their own man- or womanhood? This evolution into singularity is good. It is how our children will move from watching to seeking, and one day, by the grace of God, to responding to the call of the Father on their hearts.
There is loss, but also gain, in the passage of time.
I will mourn the shift, as I mourn for the raw desperation of the newborn or even for the naivety of my own youth. I will mourn for the loss of this precious season I am in with my children, but I will also delight in the fulfillment of God’s plan. I know that I can rest in the promise that He has only good in store for them, and for me. As I watch my daughter, and also my son, move farther away from me, I know that I can pray to God for them to be drawn nearer to Him, and I can trust that He will do so.