Every New Year’s Day, my husband and I measure our children’s heights on the inside of our closet door. There are five tick marks on that old door, and if we ever move, the new homeowners will just have to buy a new one, because it’s one of my most treasured possessions.
I knew the marks would be higher this year than last, but I wasn’t expecting just how far upward they’d travel. I should have known, however. In that inch or so between the marks, there were 365 very full, very beautiful and very hard days. There were so many suppers made, them sitting on the windowsill while I seasoned fish and poured condensed soups into the slow cooker.
So of course, major growth followed. My son was hardly interested in crawling at this point last year, and today we couldn’t get him to sit in his high chair at lunch. He was more interested in running around the entire restaurant. My daughter still has her baby mullet from last January, but now she asks to wear barrettes and doesn’t push my hand away when I go to brush it. She’s counting to 25 or higher and hasn’t asked to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in months.
The other day at church she sat beside a sweet friend who had some pretty fantastic holiday earrings in. They were dangly and sparkly and shaped like presents and bows. The second we got in the car, the conversation began. “Mama, I want to get my ears pierced,” she said, fumbling through her backpack to find her favorite star keychain.
I reminded her that we’d had this talk before. I recounted how we’d discussed taking a trip to the mall to get it done, bringing along her grandma and aunt. But when I’d mentioned how it would hurt for just a second, we decided to hold off. Now, it was back on the table and I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic this second time around.
Maybe it’s the way she’s pronouncing things like a grown adult, or the fact that she asks to stay up late every night and “read” her books in bed, then turns off her lamp all by herself when she’s done. Maybe it’s her love of watching the weather report or the way she gets totally dressed now before coming downstairs.
Either way, she’s growing up and more than ever before, I’m feeling the depth of that transformation.
My son is the same way. That beautiful, bald baby head? It’s now covered in thick tufts of blonde hair. The one word that he knew last year was “flower.” Now, he’s got a growing vocabulary and understands me when I get down on his level to talk. He tries to put on his boots all by himself and brings me his coat when it’s time to brave the cold. It’s as if someone pressed the fast-forward button without my consent while I scramble every day to find the pause.
I have questions—and I know they will too. I hope I’ll know when the day comes how to handle the issue of sleepovers, or social media, or first dates. Will they instinctively know which friends are “good kids” or will I have to intervene? Will I be able to discern the signs that they’re ready for overnight camp or to watch PG movies? Our family dog is 14, will I have the right words when he’s not wagging happily around our living room anymore?
As their mom, I know deep down that I will.
I know these kids and I know their hearts. I know what they need and I know how to respond when they hurt. That still doesn’t make it all any easier. It doesn’t mean that I won’t Google every little thing or text my own mama at 2 a.m. for answers.
This parenting thing is part knowledge, yes. But, it’s more about intuition and trust. In ourselves of course, but also in them. Trust that as we do the difficult but blessed work of raising them every single day, that we’re creating within them the foundations they need to make the right decisions, holding our hands or not.
I’ve never had all the answers, and I rarely have the right words. But those big firsts coming our way down this winding road? We’ll tackle them together, one change at a time.