I’m Not Sad That My Kids Are Growing Up

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It’s that time of the year again … when parents take over social media with sentimental posts of their kids heading back to school. Now a whole grade level higher and a few inches taller, we see proud kids smiling for the camera while their parents lament the passage of time. Among the many cry-face emoji, I look for messages of excitement and anticipation. Surprisingly, I find few.

I know our kids are growing up fast. Heck, just this week I sent one kid off to his junior year of high school and another off to his final year of elementary. By all accounts, I have a lot to be sad about this year, especially when faced with that photo of my now teenager waving goodbye to me on his first day of kindergarten in a rather smart red and blue striped polo. Thanks a lot, Facebook Memories.

It’s impossible to pour every last ounce of love and energy into precious small people and not feel ripples of heartache as they grow taller than us, rush off with friends, go on first dates, or look so old and yet far too young to be sitting behind the wheel of our car.

But kids grow up, because it’s kinda their job. And unfortunately, making it easier on us just isn’t part of it. We know that. Once upon our youth, we were off and running with our pagers, piling into friends’ cars as we traveled from here to wherever without an app tracking our every move. I suspect letting go was hard on our parents, but that was their problem … until now.

Still, I don’t spend much time wishing my kids were younger. I don’t miss toddler tantrums, potty training, picky eating, or that horrible biting phase (whatever that was all about). I say give me the now in all its uncertainty and promise; I’m ready. Give me sixth grade and junior year and all the confusion and possibility they hold. Experience has shown me time and time again just how much my kids grow into themselves with each passing year. I don’t know who they’ll become any more than they do, but I’m damn excited to find out.

I’m here for this growing up business. Dare I say, I’m downright into it. I’m up for the challenge of my role changing in sometimes complicated ways, because maybe that means I’m evolving, too. The mom I am at 42 isn’t the mom I was at 32 when my behaviorally-challenged son was entering the first grade. I’m proud to say that we’ve both learned a few things since then, with perhaps the greatest being that time deserves our respect.

As parents, we’re quick to proclaim time is a thief, but it’s actually quite generous if we reframe our thinking. Time has allowed for hard lessons and milestones, wisdom and practice, second chances and “just one more hug.” Time doesn’t owe us to speed up or slow down, either. In fact, it owes us nothing.

If anything, we owe time. We owe time respect for every moment we hope to remember forever and those we wish to forget. If we’re really lucky, time doesn’t take away without giving us today, tomorrow, and yes, even next Monday morning. We have so much happening in the now by way of family dinners, math homework, inside jokes, bedtime snuggles, soccer practice, slammed doors, and great big smiles. Time is good and bad and hard and fun and helpless and awkward and still, somehow better all the time.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a quarter of the way through this amazing book of my kids’ lives that I never want to put down. I might go back and reread my favorite parts on occasion, but I keep coming back to the now of my bookmark to find out what happens next. And as tempted as I ever feel to try and read ahead, I never do for one simple reason: it’s not my story to write.

As a fan of any big reveal, I can’t wait to learn more about these weirdo kids of mine who hate cheese and love Fortnite. Will they become doctors or husbands or soldiers or fathers or plumbers or really great friends? Will life be hard enough to keep them humble, yet kind enough to keep them hopeful? I’m not sure yet, but as of this chapter, all I know is that my kids are full of potential – and so are yours.

I’ve given myself permission to miss the warmest parts of our history together, but I’m leaving wide open spaces for all the goodness that comes next.

In 650 days, my oldest son will graduate from high school. That might seem like a long time from now, but I assure you, it isn’t. Even though my visibility gets a little fuzzy after that 650th day, I refuse to give into the fear of losing him to the ghost of “18 summers.” I know in my heart that our time has bigger plans.

So go on, kiddos, grow and learn and stretch and know that my favorite chapter of your story will always be the one I’m on – plot twists and all.

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