It is the end of August and we are holding desperately to the last days of summer. We sat by the fire last night and in the twilight and flickering fire, I studied these three faces of ours. I couldn’t take my eyes off Kayla. Freckled face, long hair spilling down her shoulders, eyes fixed on a book, legs curled up into the chair. At eight years old I ponder that in a mere ten years, she could be spreading her wings for the first time. I can’t bear the thought; I look up to the stars, squinting to see the first ones appear.
I remember my own childhood – it seems – in snapshots…sledding down a hill in preschool, a yarn and burlap sewing project in kindergarten, making ice cream in second grade, relearning to hold a pencil in fourth grade, confirmation class in eighth grade. In between those times were summer – somehow rolled together into hours of living outside, riding my bike, listening to rain under the metal awning. When I ponder it all, the years mesh together into this rapid playing silent movie a lifetime ago.
Today friends dropped their kids off at college for the first time – realizing that their years of preparing come down to this moment. Letting them go free – hours from home, in undiscovered places. I remember leaving home – I recall the mixed emotions of new found freedom, homesickness, anxiety, and looking forward to this new, strange life away from home.
Others said good-bye to twenty-something kids, driving cross country to new homes. Miles of space and time opening into a chasm of separation. It seems that as I look through my friends, I see the same road stretched before me – one that my own children are walking down since they left my womb – one where they slowly move away from me.
I glance back at Kayla’s sweet face; she is smiling over her book – adventures found in her imagination. I’m praying that I get this right – that they will remember these days with me. I hope that in our hunting for green things in the spring, and discovering crickets in the summer, reading books near silent snow falling in winter that I have taught them how to view the world in wonder. I’m overwhelmed by this ache rising in me that somehow grows stronger each year – discomfort realizing that I have such limited time. And how am I using that time?
I was a terrible babysitter growing up, but despite that, I had a few regulars. When I think back to those days, I remember the kids, but I don’t remember experiences or bonding with them. I remember watching TV or cleaning the kitchen – I never took the time to really get to know them. In my early teen mind, I was just there to watch over them, but somehow not become involved. I’m sure that I was the sitter they didn’t like.
I can’t help but thinking that there is a little bit of that teen babysitter left in me…that I don’t cultivate memories, but perform tasks instead. This thought tugs at my heart making me realize that every action I choose while the kids are still with me is a chance to say yes or no to them. I look at our days and I’m afraid to admit that in saying yes to chores and checklists that I unwittingly am saying no to them.
Another day goes by and I see the twisting turning path leading them away from me and I know that every shred of me wants to do something drastic, but drastic measures are not needed. Small, everyday changes need to be embraced…more yesses and less noes. Only one week until school starts. What kind of memories can we create in one week?