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On Seasons ⏳
or, yes, I somehow have a child turning eighteen
I have a firstborn child turning eighteen this weekend. She was two when I began writing online with any sincerity, when we lived overseas and my daily challenge was how to leave the apartment and do my daily errands with a toddler who might pee her pants in a culture that is not awash in public restrooms. Now, I ask her what her day’s plans are, because she may not be home for dinner due to social or occupational commitments. She is moving 1,353 miles away from us in seven months.
She is still firmly ensconced in our nuclear family, and for this I’m supremely grateful, yet over the past few years, I’ve watched her allegiance slowly shift from inside our clan to elsewhere — as it should be for a normal-maturing human journeying to adulthood. Three years ago, I panicked at the thought of her being ready for “the world.” Now, occasional bone-headed choices and opinions notwithstanding (because who among us didn’t have those at seventeen?), she is ready.
Whether I am is another story. During the diaper era, I was so very ready for children with whom I could at least converse in any modicum of logic. By the time my youngest was four, though, I wanted time to slow down to a slow-motion stride because I knew how fast those early childhood years fly once everyone could blessedly keep their underwear dry. Those “golden years” of roughly eight to twelve, when kids are full of imagination but flecked with glimmers of reason, when they’re old enough to be dropped off at a birthday party yet still want to snuggle with you for story time, were, looking back, my ascent to an apex of child-rearing in the home. Once they became teenagers, it felt like the rollercoaster tilted downward and the speed of the loop-de-loops took my breath away.
My oldest, now, is entering what our government considers adulthood, though in many ways not much will change within our family. She’ll still drive herself to where she wants to be, she’ll still come with us to Mass on Sundays, and she’ll still stay up later than I think is best. It sounds like she may get a tattoo I would rather her not, alas. (I did the same thing at nineteen. Comeuppance, I see you.)
I’m mostly surprised at myself right now. Two years ago and I couldn’t imagine being ready for this year. Now — I am. It’s as though God has given me grace for this season that I literally did not have a few years ago because I was not yet in this season. At age sixteen, when she would express her desire to attend college out of state, my heart would both flutter with excitement for her future self and plummet for future me, left to stir the soup without her coming to the table. But now, I’ve been given a peace I didn’t know I’d have. Even though she’s still my baby, it is, indeed, time that she is a young adult. It feels right (though not necessarily good, in the plain sense of that word) that later this year we will drive her to a state none of us have lived in and then drive away without her. Tears will be shed, and I will be a mess, no doubt. I will text her more than I ought. She will roll her eyes at me. But I know that it will be time, even if my mama heart pines for one more evening of story time on the couch.
It’s cliché and trite and obvious, but we humans forget it: there are seasons for things. There are literal phases in nature when trees are bare and others when they bud, and there are phases in life when we juggle grocery shopping with multiple children and other phases when you leave for the store, and you’re not quite sure where those children are and that’s perfectly fine.
There are phases when it makes complete sense to say yes to something and then, out of nowhere, it’s now time to say no. I’ve just said ‘no’ to something I’ve said yes to for a few years, and while hindsight is 20/20 on the whole ordeal, this crossroads wasn’t on my bingo card for 2023. But God has placed me here and invited me to turn left instead of continuing straight, and it’s in obedience that I follow, even if this road I’m now on is fog-filled. It’s my current season. They come and go.
Let this letter, however you receive it this week, be a simple reminder of something we all already know: there are times and seasons for things, and there are times to hold on and times to let go. There are times to say yes and times to say no. Solomon reminded us as much many, many years ago.
What was your season last year might not be for you this year. God likes to surprise us this way, and it very often makes little sense looking forward into the fog. In my experience, though, we can look back on our paths with much more clarity. It makes sense once we move forward in faith. Look back on your path. Do you see where it makes sense? I do, even though it didn’t at the time. I’m betting it’s the same today, looking forward in the fog.
Ora et Labora,