Last night we were able to get together with some old friends and spend a few hours catching up over good food and drink, laughs and games. Our families have known one another for a long time, going all the way back to BK days (before kids), and as a result our kids quite literally grew up together. Well, they grew up together until we moved to Oklahoma in 2017. Last night was the first time we were all together, just the 3 families, since we moved back and it was good for my soul.
I also felt really old.
Our hosts have a large pic of their family over their mantle, taken 10 plus years ago. It’s a great picture, and it’s also the picture I have in my mind of their kids (not unlike the one above of my own many many years ago). Yet as we all sat together laughing and catching up, somehow their kids, like mine, had all grown up, and it all happened in the blink of an eye, a few years while we were living out on the plains.
And yet besides feeling old, it also made my heart really, really full. This is what’s supposed to happen! If we’re lucky we get to watch our kids grow up, become young women and men, and begin to figure out their places in the world. Yes, I’m being super ambiguous about all the rites of passages, particularly those pertaining to romance…on purpose. I’m not ready for that stage. Jesus said it best: “Sufficient unto the day is the trouble thereof.”
When my kids, especially my firstborn, were little I never thought they’d sleep through the night, and consequently I thought I would also never sleep again. Now my teen girls have developed the gift of sleeping til noon (oh how I miss that aspect of teenage life), though my boy is still thee earliest riser in the house -on weekends. I look back and the guy wondering if he’d sleep through the night seems like a person from another life! Pretty soon I’ll be losing sleep again, but for entirely different reasons!
But they’re SUPPOSED to grow up! They’re supposed to get their license and scare the crap out of you every time they leave the house. They’re supposed to go hang out with their friends without you. They’re supposed to shock you with what they know (how did my little girl know THAT?). There will come a day your realize you’ve gone from Superman to daaaaad with an eye roll…but that’s ok, too. It happens to the best of us. And the best of us sometimes do things deliberately to bring on the eye roll, but that’s another post.
Sitting around that table last night, I saw my friend’s oldest daughter who is now in college…away in college, for that matter. I could hear the mix of sorrow and joy in her dad’s voice whenever it came up. I get it. The “I am absolutely NOT ready for them to be gone” daddy-heart mixed in with the “but this is how it’s supposed to be” alongside the “how the heck did it happen this quick?”
I looked around that table and saw kids who are now close to the age their parents were when we all started hanging out. That’s a gut punch. I heard about dating rules and found myself thinking “how the heck can we be talking about this???? They’re so little!” But they’re not. No matter what my brain and heart told me, my eyes could see the swift passage of time all around the room. I literally remember taking out the Diaper Genie bags in this same family’s home what seemed like yesterday, but it was a LONG time gone. Now all his kids are driving. What?
I have pictures of these kids with my kids as best friends when they were 3. THREE. And then on up through the years and then…now. They’re grown. And it happened so dang fast.
But again, this is how it’s supposed to be. It should feel too fast, because no matter how long it takes, it IS too fast. They outgrow us, and it hurts like hell. But it’s a good hurt, the kind only love brings.
I just finished A Heart that Works by Rob Delaney, where he shares the story of losing his 2 year old son to cancer. Rob is a comedian, and never have I read a book where I was roaring with laughter one moment and literally bawling my eyes out the next. It’s a great read, which feels weird to say, but its true. And it left me thinking a LOT about all the time I’ve taken for granted with my kids, all the time I begrudged a late night wake up or a dirty diaper or dishes in the sink or whatever. But mainly I think what it did was just allow me to appreciate them for who they are, to be even more overjoyed to be their dad than I already am, to be proud of them just for who they are. To love them deeply…just because they’re mine.
And to be glad I have the privilege of experiencing the long letting go called parenthood.
If you’re lucky enough to have kids, hug ‘em, cherish them, enjoy getting down in the floor with them when they’re little, or playing video games with them, or taking walks, or playing dolls, or trying (in vain) to do their hair, or just holding them when they’re crying out in the night. Because, trust me, there will come a day you’ll wish you could…but you can’t.