We Only Have 18 Summers


Last week was an emotional week full of activity. Thursday Andrew graduated kindergarten, Jacob and Zachary each won awards in their grades that had me and Steve sobbing messes, and Friday ended the school year.

Saturday I attended the senior graduation ceremony at our small christian school. I expected it to be like any other graduation I’ve attended. Basically a reading of names, a quick inspirational speech or two, the passing out of diplomas. We expected to pop in, show our support to our senior class, and quickly escape to Andrew’s baseball game. I took Jacob and Zachary with me to show them what they have to look forward to one day.

I didn’t expect to sob for an hour over children who aren’t mine. That was quite a surprise. I embarrassed the daylights out of Jacob, who asked me numerous times to stop crying, or laughing, or showing any emotion for that matter. (I think it’s the 11-year-old in him).

Life is fleeting. It will pass at a speed that will blow us away. I can’t pause time, but I can fully enter it. I can be all in when I’m in.

I knew it before my children were born. I’ve been told by every mom who has reached the point of letting go. Not one person has ever told me that time crawled. None. No one I’ve ever talked to told me when they sent their child off to college that the years were slow. Instead, it’s been “Hold on. Don’t blink. You won’t believe it when it arrives.”

I believe these people. I see the tenderness in their eyes. The pause of contemplation. The grins that tell me they don’t want to tell me how painful it will be.

I listened to 8 seniors (it’s a tiny school) stand on stage and express their hearts to their friends, families, and teachers. Each student shared words from their heart that parents long to hear. Thank you for modeling Christ to me. Thank you for educating me. Thank you for encouraging me and supporting me even when I didn’t show you gratitude. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.

I could hardly hold it together.

In those 8 faces, I saw my little boys. They will stand on a stage one day, Lord willing. I will look at their man-sized bodies and see the little boys we’ve raised. I will reflect on the years I held chubby hands to cross a street, sat side by side reading aloud for hours on end, tucked into bed praying our hearts out together.

I will miss it. Deeply.

I’ve said it before – Lord willing, we only get 18 summers with our children. That’s it. 18 summers.

I do believe that living intentionally allows us to move from stage to stage with a deeper sense of satisfaction. There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing we chose to live fully in the moments. Doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but we can at least look back with fewer regrets over how we spent our time.

When my children stand on that stage, I won’t reminisce on the bickering. I won’t remember the exasperation from telling them over and over to clean their rooms. I won’t remember the irritation of a staircase piled with toys, books, and clothes. I won’t think about how tired I was. I won’t be grateful that there will be no handprint smudges up the white walls or holes in sheetrock from a baseball gone wild. At least I don’t think I will.

Because when I watched those 8 seniors, all I could see was love, joy, and gratitude. If it were my boys standing there, I’d be thinking, “My goodness look what God has done with you.”

It’s officially summer in our home. Today I thank God for another school year. For the beginnings of another summer. For hot days and lazy mornings. For a slow pace and curiosity driven explorations. For legos and army men. For bike paths and healthy legs. For wild blackberry discoveries. For time.

Summer is the burying of “Hurry up!” or “Let’s go, we are late.” Summer sees no alarm clock. Summer is for sitting on the couch with Bible and journal until the first boy appears groggy-eyed at the bottom of the stairs. It’s for snuggling as we start our day in His Word together because the clock stopped bossing us around.

Summer is for lingering longer at dinner, not rushing away for showers and bed. Summer is for water tag, horse, or pickle after dinner. It’s for going to bed sweaty and tired, exhausted from a day well played.

Summer is for books read aloud on the couch for hours because we have no place to go.

Summer is for noticing. Noticing what happens when I move slower.

Summer is for backyard campouts, bonfires, and lightning bugs.

Summer is here for now. It will not last long. Like the rest of time, it refuses to halt at my command. I only get 18, so I will take each moment this summer. I’ll hold it, taste it, feel it, fully enter. We will laugh hard and play loud.

With each passing moment, I will say, “Thank you, God, for just one more.”

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