June 13, 2021
The other night was my middle daughter’s end of the year Open House. We gathered on Zoom, and given the year we have all just lived, it didn’t feel that strange. The evening started off with a guessing game about a writing project that I absolutely loved. It was called The Best Part of Me. The kids chose everything from their hands to hearts and then shared, in a couple of sentences, why it was their best. Black and white snapshots popped up on the screen as laughter ensued mixed with shouts of guesses.
I know that arm (shoes, sweatshirt, handwriting!)
Almost all of the guesses produced the right answer. Clearly, these kiddos know each other well. The next game centered on their most recent research project: Penguins! In the last month, my girl has made sure that we are well versed in Chinstrap Penguin knowledge. The finale of the evening was a video highlighting the events of the year as well as featuring each child individually. From snapshots of the kids on Zoom in their homes to pics around campus, we got a peek into pandemic school life. With parents not being allowed on campus this year, it was nice to see what the kids have been up to. What struck me the most was the joy. The light in their eyes, even behind face masks. The silliness. The curiosity. The friendships, as made even more obvious in the Best Part of Me game.
About 30 seconds into the end of the year video, tears spilled out of my eyes and I had to momentarily lean out of the vision of the camera, one plus of being on Zoom, I guess. The reality of this school year coming to an end and what feels like a chapter in history closing along with it hit me harder than I expected. Along with all the emotions stirred up by COVID, seeing my middle daughter as an almost 4th grader feels unbelievable. Didn’t I just bring her home from the hospital?! Trace Adkins didn’t do me any favors as You’re Gonna Miss This crooned on in the background and images of my sweet girl’s smile danced across the screen. Yes, Trace, I will. I already do. Being in this middle place, having big/little kids sometimes feels like standing in the chasm between two worlds.
When the girls were babies, it was survival. The focus of my days was to meet their needs and keep them alive. Feed, dress, change, sleep, repeat. The blurry line between day and night turned into weeks marked by monthly pictures. I remember so badly not wanting to forget the tiny, sweetest moments. To soak up every bit of babyhood and yet by the time the sleep deprivation finally left my eyes, they were walking. And talking. And running. The longest days felt like the shortest years.
With my youngest now staring down 5 years this summer, my time as a mom of babies is quickly coming to an end. The next chapter of these big/little kids, as I affectionately like to call them, is in full swing. They are to the age where they all eat solid food, can buckle their own car seats, and can visit the bathroom by themselves. They also request playdates, are Zoom literate, and are starting to perfect the eye roll. Now I’m checking math homework, cheering at softball games, and have become the resident Uber driver. The needs are shifting. My role is changing. To meet them where they are and give them the freedom to discover who they are. Just as when they were babies learning to walk, I know I have to give them space to fall down and get back up. It is so true, how giving them room to grow is much harder as they get older. To take a step back and let them learn how to navigate friendships, acne, and group projects without jumping in and with a “fix.”
My oldest is starting middle school in the Fall. I think I’m in shock. And yet, I have seen how much she has grown up this year. The responsibilities she has taken on and the challenges she has faced. I couldn’t be more proud of the young woman she is becoming. At 38, I still remember my middle school years quite clearly and it doesn’t seem possible that we are already here. In my eyes, I couldn’t fathom that the kids would grow past the tiny years of diapers and nursing, and now we are talking cell phones and Tik Tok. I remember my parents lamenting how fast the years go. How I too was once a tiny bundle of a person sitting atop my Dad’s shoulders. How crazy it is that now my littlest is the only one left who can be held. Although they all still love to snuggle, I’m hoping that will be the case forever.
We received a high school graduation announcement from one of my first singing students the other day. She was in the 4th grade when she first started coming to lessons with me and her love of music ranging from musical theater to Miley Cyrus. She was incredibly sweet and her shyness disappeared when the music would start. I still remember her brother playing tag with my very little girls in our backyard after her lessons. And now she’s heading to college in the Fall. The passing of time is best seen in kids, as the changes seem to be more pronounced. From height to accomplishments, these kids remind us that life is fluid and ever-changing.
And that is actually a very good and beautiful thing.
Because as life changes, we change. We grow, we learn. A blunt reminder to open our eyes and embrace the present moments right in front of us while also taking time to lift our gaze to the horizon. The path isn’t set. It is meant to be journeyed well whether we are heading into middle school, college, parenthood, a new career or just navigating the plate of life in front of us. Maybe it’s a tweak. Maybe it’s an overhaul. Maybe it’s just a new perspective.
For me, I see the next phase as one of more rest, more intention, more hope, and less fear. More rest in knowing that I don’t have all the answers or blueprints or roadmaps and I can make changes and edits as I go. I don’t need to volunteer for everything and I give myself permission to be picky as to where I spend my time. To say no and mean it. To take a weekend away with my husband and leave work at home. Let the kids watch an obscene amount of TV so I can work out and shower. To sip wine out of my nice wine glasses even though they require me to wash them by hand. Embrace the ever-growing pile of laundry in favor of a beach day and ignore the dust bunnies that have taken up residence under my couch. To be intentional in how I speak to my kids, plan adventures, work and visit my family. I want to let the summer heat hang in the air while laughing with friends over iced tea and sharing what our lives have looked like over this past pandemic year. To dive deeper into this blog and see what happens. When the future is hope-filled, then the intentions start to make sense. The preparations come together, even if we change course. And most importantly, hope puts a damper on fear. It turns the volume down. Even if fear is present, it is no longer calling the shots.
As a mom, I have certainly experienced fear in the driver’s seat, especially as they get older. Letting it steer my emotions, leaving me weak. From broken bones to broken hearts, the fears all want to rise up. But I’ve learned that the goal isn’t to erase the fear, rather it is to let hope and joy be greater. To be present at this moment with them, no matter their age or stage. If they are hurting, I’ll wrap my arms around them and if they are celebrating, then cheer alongside them. Stringing together moments into memories to be treasured. The days will keep marching forward and tumble into years. T-ball games will turn into gut-wrenching playoffs and preschool graduation will turn into college. Trace Adkins will keep the tears fresh in my eyes as my girls start borrowing clothes from my closet and eventually car keys from my purse. Mommy will turn into Mom and playdates at the park will turn into trips to the mall. Kissing bruises will turn into heart-to-heart talks and if their Dad gets his wish, they will always cheer for USC football. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.