When the “bigs” were babies, I would wake in the middle of the night to watch them sleep. To hear them breathe. I was, also, so incredibly caught up in fear that someone might take them from me. Not so much a someone. But, the world. Therefore, I didn’t want to miss a second of their completely amazing existence.
I had heard "Sunrise, Sunset." I'd been warned there would be a time to let go and that the moment would be bittersweet. But I pictured this letting-go happening once, maybe twice: on my child's first day of school, and the day he drove off to college.
But in fact the act of letting go is gradual. Every year, I find myself mourning my son's slow exit from childhood. I can hardly look at photos of our now-14-year-old as a toddler without a lump forming in my throat. I miss the child he was; I want to hold on to the kid he is now. And just when I think I grasp who he is this second, he changes again.
Years have passed. Flewn by, in fact. And I believe in my heart that I absorbed every waking moment with them during their infancy and throughout their toddler years. But between the ages of 6-9 it’s somewhat of a blur. Divorce happened. We moved around 2-3 times, changed schools, changed friends…changed routines. Sometimes, I think to myself that I might even have lost focus during those years. The focus for what was most important…togetherness. Looking back, I somewhat remember one kid in the office on the computer, another kid in her bedroom playing with toys, and I lounging, reading a book or doing some other independent task. We weren’t engaging with one another as much as we should have been. And that’s entirely my fault. As a single mom, I felt I had to run a pretty tight ship. Or so I thought. This mother, formerly a tender voice and gentle touch, turned into a ship captain, marking orders and managing my crew. It was all about proving to myself and everyone else that “I totally got this.” I needed nothing and NO ONE. But working late nights and weekends as a Finance Controller and coming home to cook dinner and clean house and catch up on laundry and feed animals and help with homework and chauffeur kids to & from sports and paying bills, and then waking up the next day to do it all over again, became a routine that left little or no time for chatting it up with the kids and wrestling and crafts and snuggling and game night and just simply immersing myself in their world. THEIR world. Because I was too caught up in mine. Regularly stressed, often exhausted and void of true joy. This lie of being in control is insidious.
Writing that makes me weepy.
Knowing the pure desire of my heart, God blessed me again with another “little.” And another one after that. A new “sunrise.” In so many ways, they've awakened the loving, free-spirited woman of my twenties. I find myself trying to see the world through their eyes…the complexity and size of everything around them, the love they possess for their family, all the way down to Reef's “mankies”, that locking himself in a pitch black bathroom is scary because it’s the absence of everything he knows and loves, that even the Chewbaca and rhinocerous and musical Santa Claus sitting on the shelves are as real as our friends, that the opportunity to go outside and run is what real freedom feels like…unlike our adult selves, these “littles” take nothing for granted.
The bigs are at an age where I find myself pleading, “Wait, please, I'm not ready!” I want to say. “Give me a couple more years, at least.”
But every now and then they forget we're connected, or pretend to, and they’ll morph into a slightly younger version of themselves. On those days, I’m usually quiet, taking it all in, but sometimes we’ll talk about the future and what it might bring. They’ll tell me about all the adventures he/she can't wait to begin, and while talking I notice how much taller he/she seems, or how much more grown-up his/her face is beginning to look. It's as if I can already see the next older version of them, somewhere up ahead.
I listen, and I hold on a little tighter.