3 years ago we drove our oldest son to his first day of kindergarten. I cried for weeks leading up to that day and wondered how I would manage on his big day. As we were leaving our neighborhood that morning, I heard a mom shout, “Freedom!” as her child entered the doors of the bus. And my heart cried. I wasn’t looking at my son’s entering school as my source of freedom. Far from it!
Children are a precious gift from God to us. Our children are always listening. What will they hear?
Monday was the first day of school for my older 2 boys. 1st and 3rd grades. I’ve always known the time would fly by. It’s part of my story. It’s part of why I’m so passionate about creating moments, creating experiences, living life, slowing down, saying no. I want no regrets. I want to reflect back to this time of my life and know that I gave my all. That I gave all of me. That I gave my heart, my time, my affection.
One chance. One chance at a beautiful life. One chance at today. One chance at this very moment before us.
We will not do it perfectly. We will mess up more than we want to admit. But. But. But. God offers grace and mercy.
The night before the first day of school arrived. Our end of summer celebration dinner had been cleared away, bucket lists reflected upon, lunches packed, clothes laid out, and boys scrubbed clean. They sat and listened to their daddy reading them a story. They still enjoy being read to as much as they did as babies. While daddy read stories, I began cleaning up the house, which was an absolute disaster from a weekend lived well. Evidence was in every corner. As I walked towards the playroom, my chest began to tighten. The squeeze on my heart was unbearable. When the first sob broke through, there was no holding back.
I walked to Jacob’s desk and picked up stacks of sketches he had worked on for hours and hours this summer. Piles of papers. It had been his end of summer passion, horses, sketching. He wanted to sell his sketches. Constantly, his little brain was trying to figure out how much to price each piece, what forum he would use to sell.
“Mom, how much do you think I could sell this one for? You know, I was thinking that if we framed them, people might buy them because they are getting more than just a sketch.”
“Focus on the art. Practice. Do it because you love it.”
“I do love it, but I want to sell them.”
“Just keep practicing.” Oh and he did. He dreamed. He’s dreaming. And I was blessed to hear his heart.
“Mom, I want to have a horse farm one day. You always wanted to live on a horse farm, too.”
“I did. It was my dream.”
“Then why didn’t you do it?”
“Well, my dreams changed. I’m living my dream now.”
“Well, I’m following my dream. I hope my wife has the same dream as me. And I hope she likes horses.”
“If she is the one for you, the two of you will share the same dream.”
I placed the sketches right back on the desk. They belonged there.
I knelt down and began picking up Lego pieces. Hundreds of them. And I sobbed harder. As much I love order, organization, and clean, I want to see the handiwork of my boys more. With each piece that went back into its color coded box, I thought of how it would be weeks before those Lego’s would be out again. No time will be available to sit and create for hours.
“Look, Mom, I made a car. It’s the first one I’ve ever made without directions.”
“Zachary, that is incredible. I love it!”
“Look, Mom, we made a battle scene. These are the good guys, and these are the bad guys.”
“Wow, Mom, that is great. You did a great job on that.”
“Well, I don’t have as much practice as you guys, but I tried.”
“No, mom, really, it’s great.”
Would the tears dry up soon?
These memories were from hours ago, days ago, weeks ago. And they felt like they were a lifetime ago.
I finished cleaning the playroom and their bathroom. And I knew the next day that playroom would look exactly the same way the following afternoon. Because the house would be missing 2 of our children. It would stay cleaner. It would be quieter. There would be no fighting and wrestling.
The sobs wouldn’t stop.
I walked downstairs, keeping my eyes hidden from the boys, and went straight to Steve. He knew immediately. “You had a great summer with the boys. You made the most of it.”
“I know, but, Steve, it is flying by. I mean, I always knew it would. But Jacob is halfway to being out of our house. And really there are fewer summers than that I have left with him. When he is a teenager we won’t draw and build Lego’s together for hours. He will be doing his own things.”
I cleaned my face up the best I could and walked upstairs to tuck the boys into bed. Touching Zachary’s chin, I lifted his eyes to look into mine. “Zachary, I had the best summer of my life this summer. I had a great time with you. I love you.” As much as I wanted to hold in the tears, it was an impossible feat.
“Oh, no. Don’t do it. Mom, are you crying?”
I looked at him. This boy whose legs are reaching further down the bed than they were only 3 short months ago. This boy who knows and understands things that simply amaze me. “I’m sorry, Jacob! Yes, I can’t help it. I love y’all. And I had the best summer of my life. Thank you.”
“I love you too.” He quickly put his book in front of his face, pretending to continue reading, jaw clenched tight.
The next morning I drove home after morning drop-off when I got a call from my dad. He knew it would be hard for me. He was right.
“You know, as a parent you spend so many years when your kids are little being frustrated with the messes and aggravations. The toothpaste spread all over the bathroom counter, the washcloths left out, the dirty clothes. Then they leave. And you clean the toothpaste up. You put a fresh washcloth out. And it stays that way. Even though it is sad, it is the cycle of life.”
Yes, it is. The cycle of life. Seasons come and seasons go. It’s the change of season that creates a beautiful picture at the end of the road.