This weekend our youngest child turns six. How could this possibly be? Our Eldest, who is six months from official teenager-hood makes us feel old enough, but truthfully some part of us always thought that our “baby” would always always always act, look like and behave like well . . . our baby.
Now we constantly remind our girls that they will always be our “babies” but clearly the offical physical “baby” time has ended. Despite our greatest intentional and unintentional efforts to fight it, Youngest is now moving into young lady land. She just lost her first tooth, she gets to get her ears pierced and she has lost her adorable speech that produced “wellow” for “yellow” that always made us smile. Most importantly, she is speaking her mind and finding her place in the world. And believe me with Eldest and Middle to compete with, this is no easy task. Over the past few years, she has certainly discovered both loud and powerful ways to stake her claim on some family territory that has made our house quite the partay.
But for some reason saying good-bye to this stage in her life is turning out to be difficult for this parental unit because in many ways this means saying goodbye to a stage in the story of our family that we have been in for the past 13 years. Yep . . . since we are 99.9999999999% certain that #4 will not be part of our plan – Note: I did leave.0000000001% for God’s plan – our baby, toddler and pre-school aged journey is done. We now, whether we like it our not, are fully entering the world of teenager life and before we know it, our babies will be full blown grown-ups.
Man . . . I am getting all weepy thinking about it. And while we certainly revel in this challenge and gift that God has given us to care for and raise our daughters, when the growing-up thing actually happens, there is a bittersweet feeling that envelops our spirit.
I think the bitter part comes in because we see that their world and how they experience it is becoming more and more complex every day. We have this HUGE challenge to help them develop their theological, ideological and cultural chops and street-smarts in a way that will inform their lives beyond simple sets of rules and regulations. PLUS . . . as it turns out, as they get older, we have less and less control over how they may follow God’s call on their lives. Go figure.
Giving up control is way overrated 😉
I do not know or understand how God does this with us. I wonder if God too weeps a few tears as we children move into different stages of our lives. While I do believe that God hopes for us to be fully aware of and find our place in the grand plan that God has for the world, I wonder if it IS that easy for God to just let us grow up.
It is hard enough for me to let go of my own children who – except for Eldest smacking some kid in the head for calling her a baby one to many times – make pretty good choices in life. But wowza, thinking about how humanity has and does stray from living lives of love, healing and compassion, God has every reason to hold tight to our innocence and never let us move into these days of adulthood. Knowing that as we grow up as a people, we are most likely going to make some deadly and horrific choices in life, God must weep with some reluctance to let it happen at all.
No wonder some parents choose a life of sheltering and avoidance from the world. There are days that seems like a great option for all of us. Bubble are great in theory, but as we know, not very practical, real or, at the end of the day, helpful.
So . . . then we must think about the sweet part of the bittersweet and the joy of letting go. In the words of the good Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. As we watch each of our children, but especially as our last one moves through these stages of life, we are constantly and beautifully reminded of the possibilities that God holds for every child, every person . . . and yes, even we cynical and often mean grown-ups.
We watch her discover new things, find her unique passions and gifts and I can’t but help to think that God rejoices when we any of God’s children do the same. Our tears of pride are not really about our doing, or even her accomplishments, but that she is slowly discovery and claiming just who God intends her to become. Tears of sadness of giving up control turn to tears of joy for pretty much the exact same reason. Giving up control often releases God’s spirit far more than we could have ever imagined.
As I think about these kind of things within the human family, when we step away from rhetoric or actions that destroy another human being in body or in spirit, God must weep with joy. When we stop trying to control – even with the best of intentions – and imagine what God may do with us, God must indeed rejoice in choices well made. Sure, we must find ways to carefully and responsibly live in a world full of danger, but that should only provide us the tools to make good choices that will allow for God to more freely move. Our deliberation and responsibility in life must not become and idol and the purpose for our lives . . . discovering and living what God hopes for us to become, that should be at the center of our lives.
So to Youngest on your 6th birthday, please forgive your parents for not wanting to let you grow up, the extra hugs you must endure and the incessant calls for you to promise us that you will never grow up. This is the burden you bear as our “baby” . . . sorry.