He laid his head on my shoulder and squeezed me tight. I felt his legs tighten around my waist as I struggled to hold my 45 pound 5 year old while standing up. He whispered that he loved me as he took a great big sigh and let his body relax in my embrace. The music played all around us and in that moment I was flooded with memories of dreams and prayers I had had so many years ago.
We attend the church I grew up in. The church where I went to sunday school and ran around the same halls that my children now fill with laughter and their squeals of delight as they see their own little friends. The worship hall has the same feel, just different paint. I am reminded of my teen years, when I spent most evenings babysitting for families in my church as they went off to their bible studies or date nights. I would spend sunday morning cuddling other people’s children and feel so honoured that they chose to sit with me instead of their parents. I remember holding those precious children and dreaming about the day that I would one day hold my own.
That dream became a reality, and for a while my perspective had changed. Now holding a baby in church was no longer a decision I got to make. It was no longer a choice. I now I had to hold the baby. His tears and cries were mine to hush and control. His need for a nap was my problem. His full diaper was something I had to solve. The resentment started to build as each sunday passed. Why was I going to church anyways? I spent most of my sunday morning either in a separate room nursing my child or in the hallway pacing it to get him to fall asleep. I went months and almost years without hearing a sermon from start to finish. Gone were the days of taking notes and wondering how I could apply all I had learned throughout the week. Gone were the days when if I didn’t get a full night’s rest I would sleep during the sermon. (our little secret) My sundays had changed, and so had I.
Today, something in me had changed once again. As the music surrounded me and my 5 year old son clung tight, my heart started to break. Tears flooded my eyes and it took all that was in me to keep them from pouring down my face. My back was aching and my arms were tired but my heart was completely full. My boy is growing and I can not stop him. Soon I will be unable to pick him up. This hit me like a ton of bricks and I clung even tighter to my ever growing boy.
Yesterday we celebrated my son’s 5th birthday. Five Years of pouring my life into raising him and I couldn’t be more proud of who he is and what a blessing he is to our family. Five years felt like it took forever, yet it didn’t last as long as I thought it would. I noticed lately that the he is turning into a little man and not so much a toddler anymore. His preschool days are over and a new mature school age child has replaced my once adorable little “soother faced” son.
I am a little tired of hearing people tell me to “cherish these moments while they are young” but as I stand at the end of one stage and the beginning of another i realize just how true these words are. My son is reaching the stage where it is the end of a lot of things. He no longer needs me to rock him to sleep at night, he rarely needs a nap, he plays with friends nicely, he quietly does art or puzzles on his own, he goes to all lessons without parent participation and he goes to school. He is becoming independent. Not just independently playing in the next room for a few minutes, we have reached a whole new stage where I have to search for him when it is lunch, dinner and bedtime.
As I wiped those tears away this morning and hugged my son a little tighter, I realized that when one door closes another door opens. Although my sweet boy is no longer little, he is at a whole new amazing stage. He actually gets my lame jokes and thinks I am hilarious. He finds ways to be helpful around the house and even takes care of his younger sister in the morning while I try and sneak in 5 extra minutes of sleep. He is witty and kind. He is sarcastic and hilarious. He asks amazing questions and comes up with brilliant theories. He is always inventing new things or creating new recipes. He loves art, reading, and writing. He would live outside if I allowed it. He is a friend to all and my little social bee. As I mourn the loss of my little sweet baby, I also delight in the fact that I get to learn a whole new side of the amazing child God placed in my care.
All children are gifts. All stages are blessings. I realized today that I need to find the joy in letting my children grow up. For me, being a parent, should not be a burden or a job, but the world’s greatest gift. I do not want these beautiful memories to be all I have. I want my relationship with my children to grow and change as much as they do. Finding my place in their lives and knowing when to step up or step out. As they grow, so should I.
This was a lot to learn this morning, all from a single tight squeezed embrace from my growing five year old son. I am now a “five year Parent” so I should be changing too.
What stages do you miss? Which ones are you glad are over? How have you learned to let your children grow and let go?