I used to have a list of things I would do once the kids had grown up.
I mean, not a list on paper – that’s just begging to be discovered and become fodder for future therapy – but a running list I kept in my head.
The thought was that I would sacrifice myself on the altar of motherhood for a couple decades, and then I would reward myself by doing all the things I couldn’t do with kids.
Then some of my friends had children who didn’t grow up.
It occurred to me that:
- those grown up years aren’t guaranteed,
- and I was unintentionally wishing away my kids’ childhoods.
As long as I kept up that list, there was a part of me that was eagerly anticipating the passing of precious years. I didn’t want to be that kind of mom. I felt like I owed it to myself, my kids, and my friends who hadn’t been given the choice to love every single year of my kids growing up.
I started by doing some of the things on that list. I got on a plane and went to New York City. I started to write. I got on more planes and wrote more things, and I put to bed the image of the martyred mother.
It was easy for a while to do all the things I wanted to do and still be a mom.
I could go out for a night after bedtime or run away with the girls for a weekend and Jared could fill in for a few days, and everyone would be fine. I could even take off for a whole year of traveling and throw the kids in the RV with me.
Their little lives fit pretty easily into my big one.
But now their lives are getting bigger.
And while they need me less to keep them alive and safe, they need me more in ways that can’t be delegated.
You can’t hire a high school kid to go to a soccer game and cheer the loudest.
All of a sudden, my life fits around theirs. My calendar is filled with their practices and game days and field trips and dances and award banquets. I book my work and my yoga and my coffee dates around when they won’t need me to drive them or cheer for them or haul their water bottles.
And I am blown away by how much I love it.
I love sitting in the grass watching my son run around a soccer field.
I love huddling under the overhang of the concession stand while my daughter’s baseball team waits out the downpour.
I love dinners comprised of $2 hot dogs and $1 chips.
I love learning the names of the kids my kids play with and of the parents who share bleacher seats and volunteer duties with me.
I love the little glimpses of his life and his heart my son reveals to me on our car rides home, and I love being the first arms Emma leaps into when she scores a run.
I’m stunned at how consuming and also satisfying this stage is. It’s not a part of parenthood that I expected to love.
I also know that this, like everything, is fleeting.
So I put my hand on my heart and say this is joy.
I take pictures.
I scribble reminders in my gratitude journal.
Because soon they will not need me to drive them, and I won’t always have a front-row seat to their struggles and triumphs. Someday, if we’re lucky, they will grow into a new stage. I will, too.
Until that day comes, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I fully and completely relish every single moment of this one.
What about you? What do you love about the stage you’re in right now? I hope you’ll share a glimpse with me in the comments.