Well, it happened last month: my firstborn child turned eighteen. Overnight, she became a legal adult. Her younger sister, age fifteen, is quick to remind her nowadays that she doesn’t have to ask her parents’ permission to do certain things anymore. (I think we know which of my two children needs more supervision, huh?!) 😉
My husband and I reminisced about the day D1 was born and the thoughts that ran through our minds as we held that tiny body in our arms. Honestly, we were both freaking out–haha! I remember thinking, “Oh, my heavens, what have I done? I’m responsible for this person for the next eighteen years!”
Eighteen years seemed like a looooong time.
Um, eighteen years is NOT a long time. Oh, yes, those first several years slogged on, and unlike other moms I know, I never enjoyed the infant stage. But then D1 entered kindergarten, and a few blinks later, she entered high school, and half a blink later, she’s about to graduate.
Now we’re staring college in the face, and though it’s still seven months away … it’s ONLY seven months away! :O And suddenly I’m asking, “Have I taught her everything she needs to know?” (Does a parent ever succeed in that?) “Have I encouraged her to cling to her convictions and make wise choices?” (Well, yes, but have I encouraged her enough?) “Will she continue to grow in her relationship with the Lord once she leaves the house?” (I don’t know, though I’ve laid all the foundations I can; so far, it’s looking good, praise God. ;))
So many questions bombard me, and at times, I wish we had another eighteen years to parent her.
I know young moms are frequently encouraged to hang in there and “enjoy those early years with your children because they grow up so fast.” I heard it myself, but the words have a tendency to fall on deaf ears when in the midst of changing diapers and giving baths and feeding wiggly bodies and disciplining bad behavior and nursing their illnesses and teaching life lessons and I’m “on call” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for eighteen-plus years!
But now … now I’m so grateful God gives us eighteen-plus years to mold and direct and guide another image-bearer, who’s poised to take flight to be another light in a dark world. Surrounded by a society that tells us to put ourselves first, think about our careers first and worry about a family later—if a family is to come at all—I’m telling you eighteen years is not a long time, and looking back, was it really that hard a sacrifice? Yes, it’s hard in the trenches. Anything is hard in the trenches. But the end result is soooo worth it. Selflessness is worth it. Sacrifice is worth it. Yes, I still have my selfish days, but I wish I could hit that “do-over” button when my girls were six and under and there were too many days when I resented having to parent because all I wanted to do was work on my manuscript that beckoned me from my laptop. Now, I’d tell myself to chill out and enjoy my daughters in their innocence because the work would—and will—always be there. Time to mold and shape and love on my children would not.
Just like no one on their deathbed wishes they could have spent more time at the office, we’ll never wish we’d spent less time with our children. If you feel like you’re slogging knee-deep in the muck at the bottom of the trench right now, I encourage you to keep going. Jesus only asks us to take it one day, one step, at a time. We can do one step at a time, right? The efforts you’re putting in, whatever quality time you can spend with your kids, whatever eye-to-eye attention you can give them, it’s necessary. It’s needed. It’s not wasted. Children aren’t just another box to check off on a bucket list. They’re a gift from God, with life purposes of their own, and to do parenting right, it’s necessary for us to slog through some trenches and put our desires on the back burner for a little while. Not forever. Not even for eighteen years. But for a time. Because those growing lives need us, and the fruits and blessings that come later from our efforts are more than worth it.
All too soon, you’ll find yourself where I’m at, about to watch my baby head off into the next season—an impactful season!—of her life. A season during which I will no longer be a player on the field beside her but a spectator watching from the sidelines as she plays her own game. A new trench. New trials. New prayers. And I’ll blink and D2 will be out there playing, too.
Life is precious. Lives are precious. And for all the years, energy, and tears I invested into my writing and the two books that have resulted from that, I’m prouder of who resulted from the years, energy, and tears I invested as a mom: a competent new adult who loves the Lord and wants to use her talents for His glory.
That’s the real treasure we’re storing up for ourselves in Heaven.