Yesterday over coffee and pastries, we talked like all mamas do about how quickly time is moving and how fast the children are growing, and it is no less true for each time we say it. I wonder if it even becomes more true as we repeat the words and see the ways it’s newly true, just as it’s always been.
It reminds me of those mornings when our babies looked completely different from the night before, and I wondered how she shape-shifted from a newborn with back fuzz into a wide-eyed infant who laughed and played with her feet. How she grew two inches and developed from barely saying a word to stringing together long gurgly sentences.
As I talk to my sisters at the coffee shop, I am remembering all that and, too, my big girl’s legs nearly long as mine (not a huge feat, but still). I’m thinking of each of their individual senses of style, her humor, her generous spirit, her long hair bleached by sun, her desire to talk about sorrow and the complexities of life on this messy planet.
And my girls are changing so fast and I’m slowly learning to let go and asking all the questions: Is she ready? and What if…? and the slew of others known by every nervous and well-intentioned parent.
I know sometimes we miss the mark, give more than they’re ready for or not enough. We neglect to give credit due or expect too much or forget grace.
All this letting go is complicated business. Sometimes it happens overnight — the way of the baby, and it’s an everyday miracle, and we wonder how we got here, much less they — but more, it is so gradual that often we scarcely see it.
We let go when our babies start to walk, and my sisters are right there with their littlest ones. These kids want to move, and so they do amongst bigger kids at the park, and they get knocked over by the tire swing, tumble down hills. My sisters pick them up, soothe and comfort and let the babies down again to explore.
Let go, draw close, repeat.
Someday these babies will become bigger toddlers with strong opinions, and those will be the days of learning to pick battles, which is really another kind of letting go.
And they will come close and grow bigger and venture further and come close again.
One day they’ll be preschoolers, and then we will see how much she wants to be with the big kids, and we’ll let her walk to the end of the street with her sisters and pray she always remembers to stop at the curb and watch the driveways even without us there to do the reminding.
We learn some things about trust and unclenching hands during these years, and I know we have much more to learn, and we will forget and then remember again. I expect it to go on like this for a good long time.
It seems this growing of babies and children and young adults will always brush against the side of loving parents loosening their grip, will always draw forth new depths of faith, heartache and trust.
This week, my oldest is spending her longest stretch of time away from her family. Sici, her papa and I talked about it in detail last weekend. She’s a process girl (like her mother), decisive though she may be, so we debated it, weighed the pros and cons of heading out of town right before our family road trip and gave her the option of making the decision. She paused for a moment and said, “I’m ready to go.”
So as I type, Sici’s at the beach for four days with her dear friend and her friend’s great parents, and though I know others her age have been away longer, when you say good-bye and hug your girl extra long and tight, you’re not thinking about all of them, you’re just thinking about yours. You are trying not to cry as you hold this unique gift and think how much you love her and how quiet the house will feel without her and her big 11-year-old voice.
This week, while Sici is digging in the sand and jumping waves, J is back again in one of her happiest places, and it’s hard work and grace and hands in soil and animal eyelashes up close. It’s the world J found, or the one that found her, and there she is again on the farm.
After her first night of farm camp, we sat around the dinner table, and J told us excitedly about all the animals — some are new to the farm this year, and others are old friends. J explained their quirks like how the goats kept trying to eat her name tag and how the pig especially likes the weeds behind its little house.
Then she told us about St. Quinn, her favorite animal, the fuzzy calf she tended last year when it still drank milk. “Yeah, I don’t feed her with a bottle anymore,” she said, “but I do get to brush her hair.”
“Quinny is so big now,” she continued, her eyes wistful, and I recognized the love-tinged sadness as it passed gently by.