It's too late – there's no going back now. Somehow, Stuart and I (who are young, vibrant, and care-free) are the parents of these growing humans. People tell you this will happen and you regard them as “not with it” or “old”.
“That'll never happen to us.” we obnoxiously said back, not realizing what a difference the years will make in the life of our children. When they were young, cradled in the safety of my arm and nestled into my breast, waiting on their every whim, it seemed an eternity stood between me and independently minded and bodily-able children. It feels, during those long days, as if the ability to wipe one's behind would never actually come and I'd will be nursing and tending and wiping all of my days.
“Oh what we wouldn't give for a night's sleep!” we'd say.
“Oh how nice would it be to have a warm dinner!” we'd say.
“Oh what I wouldn't give for a child who can put themselves to bed!” we'd say.
Now this is where we are.
Now we are here in this world where children feed animals, wash dishes, inteligently contribute to conversation (and non-intelligently contribute to conversation too), help us prepare the house for guests, and teach themselves math lessons. We are now in a world in a world where the children are rapidly, at warp-speed, growing into wonderful little forms of their individual selves. Selves that are independent, but not autonomous, from our family unit. We are seeing the development of these wonderful little people. No longer my nursing babes and needy toddlers, here they are.
Georgia is our resident dish washer. No one break the news to her that $2 a day is far below the minimum wage in Washington State, please. When she first began washing the dishes, she was quite terrible at it. Wasting water, soap, and with a low view of what “clean” actually meant. A few of the dishes I was a bit extra hard on actually have brought her to tears on occasion. But now, all these months in, she has developed a technique, skill, and system that is all her own. One she is proud of and pushes forward when anyone else dare to challenge the sink full. Of all our children, perhaps Georgia is the most independently minded – though, that may be in part to her being the oldest.
She challenges and questions more than any of the other children, but as a result, her mind is sturdy and filled.
She has also decided to become a Latin scholar apparently (lest I think my children will naturally become spitting images of their father and I).
The boys, William and Owen, are the resident feeders. Whether the snow falls or the sun shines, they head out each morning before breakfast to account for animal duties.
I remember being distantly told that I would love when they got to the stage of being able to help on the farm.
“That will never happen” I snorted back, obviously wanting to lick my motherhood-wounds of having 4 babies in 5 years. But it did. Of course it did. Time has a way of simultaneously creeping by and catapulting us forward. How can both be true at the same time?
Yet somehow it is. The days are long and the years are short.
The boys are not big yet but are still capable of driving tractors and ATVS loaded with hay and buckets of chicken grain. They can open fences, herd in rogue sheep, manage the roosters, and make way for the horned dairy cow. I delight in watching them work as they adapt their little bodies to big tasks (such as finding a hole in the fence to crawl through versus crawl over).
The boys are polite, but wild – as homeschool farm boys tend to be. They can make friends with anyone and often are keen to find new foreman in the surrounding orchards to ask questions and share cool rocks or sticks with. They can be absolutely dumb on occasion but their high-water pants, dirty hands, love for bugs, and pockets filled with treasures still makes my heart beam.
I'm on the cusp of that changing. I can feel it. Owen is ever so slowly slipping from boyhood and I fear for my mother's heart on the day when that is undeniable. There were times when we could never leave Owen's side – not for a moment. If we went to church, to a friends for supper, to a store… one parent was always on “Owen duty” and one parent had the other 3.
Now, he often adventures off alone to find treasures and seek new boundaries. I'm glad that for now, the treasures are bits of dried tree sap and the boundaries are the neighborhood orchards.
I'm told “Sir William” looks just like Stuart did as a boy, though since that's way before my time as his wife, I'll have to just take his family's word for it.
Just yesterday, William asked me how short of a man I thought he would grow into. Though I come from fairly tall Scandinavian stock, neither Stuart or I are tall people.
“You'll be as tall as the Lord created you to be!” I encouraged him.
… which was less than a satisfactory answer for an eight year old who is now slightly shorter than his younger sister. He insisted that I feed him more protein so that he could force his body into a growth spurt, which made me chuckle. It's one of the great comforts of believing whole-heartedly in God's sovereignty, really, being able to encourage our children that they're fearfully and wonderfully made. I find a lot of security in knowing that each of my children: their tendencies, their personalities, their eye shape, their fingernails, and yes, even their height… all have been orchestrated, created, and held together by God's will and purpose.
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
The great potter has formed my children. Each part of them.
Two years ago, I watched a close friend of mine sit and hold her five year old daughter for over a month. Her daughter was home on hospice and destined to die from cancer in just a few short weeks time. One doesn't witness a mother love like that – unrelenting, unquenchable, unwavering – and come away the same person. One quickly realizes that as it pains a mother's heart to watch her children grow, we should count it all great joy that they are given the gift of growing.
I've become much more physical with my children since that time. It just so happens that our youngest is easily filled by snuggles and physical comforts. In many ways, we needed each other during Danica's passing. She was trying to understand why her friend was dying and I was wrestling with God to try and make sense of the same. We held each other – and we still do. I'm grateful I still have one very eager to squirrel away in bed with me on Saturday mornings, smother my face in kisses, and let me brush her hair.
I know what my dear friend would give to do the same with her daughter. I cannot afford to waste a moment of it.
I used to cringe when older folks would tell me to savor every moment because of how fast it goes. At the time, it seemed so incredibly unhelpful to a burnt-at-both-ends Mom of young children. But now, I realize (I think) why they said it.
Because if you're angry…
… burnt out….
… time passes regardless. At the same pace, at the same time, every day. For each of us, it continues to flow and sweeps us along downstream. Over time, we progress further from where we began.
A beautiful, and awkward, and wonderful time of in between.