I lost my head and helped my daughter address 50 invitations to her 12th birthday last week. I know. But it could just as easily have been 100, because you simply cannot leave anyone out, or it will hurt their feelings, and plus, they’re friends with so-and-so, and she’ll tell them I’m having a party and he invited me to his and we were friends in kindergarten and we once waved to each other at recess and...you get the idea.
I won’t bore you with all the details, because many of you are already familiar with trying to corral B-B’s when they’re dumped out of the tube...from 100 feet in the air...while wearing a catcher’s mitt on each hand...at the roller skating rink. But just know that if your daughter came home with a welt across her face in the shape of a licorice, gummy worm, taffy stick or circus cookie, I am truly, truly sorry, even if the perps (boys) are not.
By the end of the evening, even my daughter agreed that this was the last one of it’s kind. And then I crawled into bed and dreamed a dream of days gone by—her fifth birthday...with little baby fairy invitations, glittering calligraphy and pink chiffon swaying from tree branches as angel girls danced and giggled in the summer air, signaling the end of a ten year reign for guns, swords, burps and flatulence in a house full of boys. Of course, this was before she announced what she wanted to be for Halloween—a dead football player covered in blood and wearing a metal claw—but I digress.
I think I thought it would always be that way. Just like I thought there would always be diapers. And baby food. And souring milk left in forgotten bottles. And there would always be tantrums. And sand in the tub. And wet swimming suits molding in the corner under a towel. Then standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, an older woman turned to me and said,
“Enjoy this time, dear. It goes by so quickly.”
Of course, I couldn’t really hear her, because I was busy dangling one son over my shoulders by his heels while another was wrapped like a spider monkey around my head. And as I drove home, flailing at the back seat to swat them away from each other, I pondered the sentiment;
“Enjoy this time, dear.” Impossible. Three of four children had spent the night in our bed, waking us at five minute intervals to vomit. One son had poured a gallon of gasoline over his head while the other boy stood screaming in the shed, paralyzed with fear over some sort of creature climbing up his shirt. And my oldest had been sent to the office, again, for “not recognizing authority”.
“It goes by so quickly.” Does it? Does it really? Because that would be okay with me. No, seriously. How soon can bed time and nap time arrive? Can it still be considered date night if we leave at noon? When will you be big enough to ride all the rides at Lagoon? When will you be old enough to babysit? When will you get yourself ready for church and school and practice piano on your own?
Turns out, the answer is, “Before you’re ready.”
I remember my father telling me a few years back, “If I’d known how wonderful you would turn out, I would have been kinder to you when you were a child.”
My laughing response was, “Dad, if you’d been kinder to me when I was a child, I wouldn’t have turned out to BE so wonderful.”
Or so humble.
Which illuminated the reality that there really is a time for every season. And most of young parenting is about digging trenches and building towers. Here and there you’ll take a moment to pause and stand back for a change in perspective—enjoying the creation—but if that is all you do, the castle will sit, half finished and decaying in the elements, while you admire it’s partial beauty. It is only after the finished product is set aglow with the warmth of a fading sun...and memory...that you see the true magnificence of what you created, albeit through a soft focus lens.
Which is why God created grandparents. Brilliant.
And one day, I will be that woman who pats your arm in the grocery store aisle and says, “Bless your heart, enjoy this time, dear. It goes by so quickly.” Which is your signal to put down the shovel and stand back for just a few minutes to appreciate what you’re building. But not for too long, because that castle ain’t gonna build itself.