she climbed from the car and i watched my girl walk away. my tall girl, on her way into the ACT test for the first time. everything about her serious. "bye mom, see you later," she waved and joined the stream of other high school juniors heading into the testing site.
i pulled my car from the curb already praying. praying for my big girl and this big test she had ahead of her today. this big test which she had done her very best to prepare for. this test which feels perhaps even bigger than a test should be. across the street from the school was a neighborhood, and as i prayed and drove, i found myself stopping in front of the tiny neighborhood playground. a swing. a slide. some monkey bars. why does it feel like just last week she was hanging on the monkey bars of her childhood. this tall girl, this strong, young woman, i swear just yesterday i was watching her walk up a school pathway toward kindergarten and now we are into the throes of college preparation -- the beginning of when she walks away.
a blink. that's all it is. from baby to her life beyond our home -- that's all it is. a blink.
and yet, she's not fully there. yet. she may be 17 and a pretty independent gal at that, but she's not fully there. just last week she said, "mom, will you drive me?" she wanted me to drive her to the testing site -- less than 4 miles away. this girl who has had her license well over a year. this girl who has her own car. this girl who drives herself absolutely everywhere -- even all over our new city of minneapolis. this girl wanted her mom to drive her to her test. "of course i will." i didn't even have to think about it. i'd be happy to drive her and drop her at the curb and pray for her as she walked into something so big. i'd be honored. i'm her mom.
and i won't be driving her to places for too much longer.
somedays, in fact, she drives me.
i have always found the balance of caring for my kids and creating kids who can care for themselves to be a breathtaking challenge. there have been so many pivotal points in our days where i've had to say, "no, you don't need me to do that for you...you are fully capable." with five children at five different ages, i've said those words thousands of times. but i've also said, "here, let me do that. here, let me show you. here, let me help." and that's one of the greatest joys of motherhood: doing something for a small one who needs me. even doing something for a tall one who needs me. but it's a constantly changing kind of thing. how much can they do...how much do they need...how much must i push them? i don't know about you, but that keeps me on my toes and, of course, on my knees. "yes, you can make your own bed and your own peanut butter and jelly sandwich..." but then there's the, "no, you can't cross the street by yourself or drive alone to the mall of america." and let's face it, i'm dealing with everything from one getting ready for kindergarten to one getting ready for college. it's confusing. it's even exhausting.
and i mess up a lot. there really is no manual in my hands or clear message in my ear about how to do it. sometimes i let them push the boundaries too far. and we suffer some consequences. sometimes i make things too safe and small. and i remove what could have been a good lesson to learn.
parenting is hard.
parenting can hurt.
parenting will humble.
but parenting is here and it's mine to hold...at least for this moment in time.
and i want, desperately, to squeeze every life-bit from the journey of child rearing and raising and loving. not hold onto them tighter than they need to be held -- because that's no good either. but hold them with a mother's arms which will hug them close to her heart and then show them the way out into the world. out into the world, but never, never far from her heart. that's what i want. i strive for it. i fail and fall and start again each new day. i apologize and agonize and, eventually, i realize it's never going to look perfect. i won't raise perfect kids and we won't ever be anything close to a perfect family. their mama, as they know well, is so far from perfect. oh, so far. but because of God's grace, we can know His perfect love and that will cover the countless, countless imperfections of parenting.
if you haven't read katrina kenison's, the gift of an ordinary day, i would encourage you to do so. it has been quite inspiring to me. here's a quick piece from her lovely writing:
“I know I can't make time slow down, can't hold our life as it is in a freeze frame or slow my children's inexorable journeys into adulthood and lives of their own. But I can celebrate those journeys by bearing witness to them, by paying attention, and, perhaps most of all, by carrying on with my own growth and becoming. Now it dawns on me that the only way I can figure out what I'm meant to be doing is to try to understand who I'm meant to be...I will not waste this life, not one hour, not one minute. I will not take for granted the blessing of our being here...I will give thanks...”
― Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir
so tall girl is now a couple of hours into her test. if you feel led this morning, would you pray for her? because we know, more than anything, it's our prayers not our problem solving which make the difference.
and come 1 o'clock, i'll be at the curb waiting for her to walk out and climb back into my car. at least for today.
it's a gift.