I wanted to cherish every stage of our daughters’ lives, but when they were little, I couldn’t imagine loving them more than at that moment. After all, chubby cheeks are adorable and little kid snuggles are the best.
I wanted to freeze time and keep them little forever.
When our girls were in early elementary, I lamented to my cousin about how fast they were growing. I wished I could keep them little forever and not have to go through the dreaded teenage years. My cousin, whose children spanned the teen and young adult years, advised me to embrace each stage. She shared the joy in having adult conversations with her children, among other experiences she relished.
I wasn’t yet convinced.
I couldn’t help but mourn the tender years that were disappearing before our eyes.
Fast forward to present day. Hormones have set up shop and aren’t going anywhere. We’ve traded late night feedings for talking through tears late into the night. We work through issues that will one day seem little, but, mixed with the maze of emotions and friends who are experiencing the same confusion, are big.
When I am weary at night and want nothing more than to tuck myself into bed and get lost in a good book, I remain perched on my daughter’s bed, listening, talking, and giving love and reassurance. When she comes home from school crying because her friend wouldn’t speak to her at lunch and she doesn’t know why and her teacher didn’t call on her in math and she still doesn’t know the answer to her question and she has so much homework she’ll never finish, I draw a breath.
I just keep breathing, like in every stage.
Then I hug her, put my work aside, fix her a snack and sit beside her with assurance that it’s all going to be okay. For I hope that if I’m available for my daughters now, in this stage, just like the previous stages, they’ll come to me in the next stage, and the next.
I want to be the one they come to when they face new challenges in high school. I hope they’ll call me from college when they’re balancing classes and new friends and (gasp) dating. When they’re ready for marriage, I hope they’ll seek my advice. When they pick up the phone to share the news that I’m going to be a grandma, I want to be the first person they call.
Just like I was the one they’d run to with a boo-boo or new accomplishment when they were little, I hope to be the one they come to with every hurt and celebration.
As I watch my seventh-grader walk to her carpool with legs so long they must have been fertilized, I hold back a tear from moments before when I kissed her and realized that she has met my height.
A while later, I send my fifth-grader to school and watch her walk to the corner where she looks for her friends. I pray that the day will be kind to her, and that she will be strong if it’s not.
Some days I want to pull my hair out.
I never know which child will come home from school: the Grinch or Cindy-Lou-Who. The roller coaster of emotions drives me crazy. But didn’t I also feel that way during the toddler temper tantrum phase? And the following years when they had a bad dream EVERY night, or needed ANOTHER drink of water an hour after putting them to bed?
It seems like just yesterday, mornings were chaos with getting the girls ready for school: making their breakfasts, packing their lunches, making sure they brushed their teeth and had fewer than fifteen barrettes in their hair.
Now I sip my coffee as I watch them do it all themselves.
And I remind myself not to lose these moments to mourning (what we’re losing), because the future is exciting. Okay, it’s a little scary, too. Still, I can’t wait to see what they will do, who they will become.
But first, I will embrace the moment and cherish every stage.