Our daughter, Ella, started the 2nd grade yesterday. THE SECOND GRADE. I cheated a bit this year in the emotion-game of raising a daughter by ignoring that fact until about 20-seconds after the first bell rang and she trotted into the front door of the school and my wife, son, and I walked back to the car. That’s when things got heavy in my heart and I drove home speechless, later blaming whatever was going on with my eyes on early-onset glaucoma.
Just this morning I put the above image together showing Ella on her first day of Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade – the image says it all – our little girl is growing up. And she’s growing up fast.
It’s inevitable – we all grow up (except, of course, in that very curious case of Benjamin Button). We know this from the moment our children are born – they don’t stay this way for long.
The freely offered “parenting advice” from those around me these first 7-years of parenthood have been varied but I think fall under two main camps:
1st: The “Don’t Blink” Camp – these people are well-meaning and are professional reminders of that inevitable truth – that my children are growing up, and if I blink too many times or for too long I won’t know what happened.
2nd: The “Just Wait Until She . . .” Camp – these are the advice-givers I often have difficultly with. Their responses are usually followed with detailed accounts about their son or daughter’s awful teenage years or rowdy college years or how a specific life-event changed everything for the worse. “Just wait until she gets her first phone.” “Just wait until she gets to High School.” “Just wait until she gets a boyfriend.” “Just wait until she doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.”
For starters, both of these ‘camps’ are flawed as advice. Both assume that every parent experiences the same thing(s) with parenthood – we parents are all too busy to watch our children grow up and/or that every child takes a turn for the worse, has a rebellious season, or gets ejected from college for partying.
I don’t buy those assumptions. (I could go on about what you get when you assume, but I’d better not.)
Yes, I’m guilty of working too late, too much, too often and missing out, but I am taking practical steps every day to make sure I’m a part of Ella’s and Ezra’s life in an attempt to live and love THROUGH the blinks. I am often defending my inability to be at something that would interrupt my being able to drop off Ella at school or eat supper around the table as a family. I refuse to try and catch-up with life as it’s happening, but rather place some obvious roadblocks in our family’s path that allow us to soak in the life we’re privileged to live. Yes, I’ll blink. Yes, our children will grow up. Yes, that does and will continue to ‘hurt’ in a way – but I’m PUMPED to be along for the ride! I’m excited to see what these two we’ve been entrusted by God with grow up to be and I’m honored to have the opportunity to impact their future-selves today and tomorrow!
I also don’t go to bed at night fearing that my daughter is going to turn out to be the next [INSERT NAME OF CHILD POP STAR TURNED MTV VIXEN]. I don’t fear the “wonder years” or that moment of disrespect from either of my children that begins a downward spiral that ends in prison or the gutter. Again, my wife and I continue to take practical steps TODAY and EVERYDAY that are building blocks of character and consistency for our children.
In the end, I’m going to blink. It’s impossible not to. But I’m going to enjoy, soak up, and live-in all of the eyes-open time I’ve been blessed with. I’m also going to wear out the shutter on my DSLR and phone and bore my followers with “too many” shots of our life-adventures on Instagram and Facebook. And I’m not going to apologize about it – because some of those who complain are the same ones who say, “Don’t blink – they’ll grow up before you know it!” I’m also not going to live my life in fear of those would-be pitfalls, cliff-edges, and downward spirals. Instead, I’m going to acknowledge the reality of those difficult situations, grieve those situations, but I’ll remain optimistic that the God who guides me daily by His Spirit will continue to guide our family and help us navigate this broken world by being a POSITIVE, God-fearing influence on it!
So, please, if you catch me saying “Don’t blink” or “Just wait until she . . .” to YOU in an attempt to give my free parenting advice, please feel obligated to smack the liver out of me (is that even possible?) – I don’t want to be guilty of living in those camps either.