A Hard Goodbye

"Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?"
Psalm 127:3 (The Message)

I don't know exactly when it happened, but I have made a startling revelation this summer. The first inkling of it happened earlier this spring. As I do every year, I sorted through my children's clothing, putting the too-small garments in a pile to give to Good Will, making room for new purchases. I have been shocked every year by how much each child has grown and have been more than slightly dismayed at what that will mean to my bank account. I have sighed resignedly at the fact that Target and Justice will be grateful for my contribution in keeping their books in the black as they each have to be visited to supplement what is lacking and necessary in each kid's wardrobe.

It doesn't happen as often as I wish, but I got on a cleaning streak earlier this spring that my three offspring still talk about. I mean the kind that doesn't just stop with the usual chores of cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, and straightening up bedrooms and the kitchen. This kind of cleaning is something I haven't done in...well...about five years (the same amount of time that we have lived in this house). This was a top to bottom sort of housecleaning - a sorting, throwing away, and storing away of items that had hung around past their time.

I was fine until I got to the playroom. Until a few months ago, that room has lived up to its name. It has been the place where two young sisters have spent hours and hours daydreaming and coming up with fantastic story lines for their Littlest Pet Shop animals and Barbie dolls. It is where dinosaurs and Star Wars laser guns and Halloween costumes have threatened to overflow their plastic containers. It is where big imaginations have run wild in small bodies and more pictures have been colored than can be counted. Books - yet unpublished by their grade school-aged authors - have found their inspiration in that pale green room.

Maybe what undid me was the fact that the playroom wasn't the playroom anymore. It has been changed into an office and living room area in the basement. And the transition came too easily, too swiftly - even though its current purpose now serves best those who use it.

The reality is that my once almost five, seven, and eight-year-old children are now my almost ten, twelve, and thirteen-year-old pre-teen daughters and teenaged son. And although I hate to admit it, the prediction long ago from those farther along in the journey of motherhood has proven true. The day came, far sooner than I had ever dreamed, when I sat on the floor, holding a soon-to-be removed princess dress-up costume in my hands with tears streaming down my cheeks, as these words formed on my tongue:

Where did the time go??

And I realize I am facing a new, yet very familiar, set of anxieties as the next five years will thoroughly change my children yet again. The looming teen years bring up the same thoughts I had as a brand-new mom:

I don't know how to do this!
Where's the manual when I mess up?
Will I be enough?
Will he...she...think I am a good mom?
Will I do this right?

Children are given to parents to teach us.

My husband has often said this throughout our thirteen years of stumbling and walking through parenthood together, and I have come to realize the truth of his words all over again.

Chase, Jordyn, and Jenna, I thank Jesus for allowing me to be your mother. You have taught me far more than I could have imagined on each of the days I was told the glad news that you were going to be mine. I am praying that we will finish your childhood well. Always know that your momma loves you with all of her heart and understands God's infinite and unconditional love better because of the privilege of knowing you.