“I was pregnant at my college graduation ceremony. I knew I wasn’t ready, but our son Kaleb arrived to rock our world in the best way possible.
We were young and dumb. We didn’t have time to establish careers or learn how to live independently.
Ready or not, we were parents.
We were suddenly deep in a world of diapers, spit up, adorable hiccups, and exhausting joy. We jumped in all the way and having babies two and three felt like the most natural thing in the world. When Annalyn, our youngest, was born, we felt like old pros at labor, delivery, and infancy.
Parenting became comfortable and routine.
The other night Ella, my middle child, had her first semi-formal dance. We prepared by shopping for a dress and shoes, ordering a boutonniere, and practicing her desired hairstyle.
Yet when Ella rode away with her date and Jon and I dropped Kaleb and Annalyn off at the movie theater, I realized I wasn’t completely ready for this.
I felt a weird sense of empty as we entered a restaurant for a date night we hadn’t really planned; it just happened because our kids had their own lives, independent of us.
Jon sat across from me at the restaurant and said, ‘My entire adult life, I’ve been a father. Now I am not sure who I am without them.’
I scrolled through the pictures I had taken earlier in the evening. I stared at my little girl, who looked like a young woman, pinning a boutonniere on her date’s suit jacket and tried to calculate how the eternal, sleepless nights had brought me to this night.
We talked about our future, laughed at crazy stories from our early years, and enjoyed our impromptu date. But it was a bittersweet moment of realizing exactly where we are in life. We have successfully taught our kids to be independent, and they aren’t going to need us much longer.
Just two weeks after the dance, my youngest completed elementary school, and my oldest finished middle school.
Out of the blue, my babies grew up, and I am suddenly feeling very unprepared for the next step.
Okay, I know you are thinking this shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. It is the natural progression of life, and it has been 15 years in the making. But somehow, I am caught off guard.
I failed to anticipate how much I would want to put everything in slow motion. I couldn’t wait for more independence, and now I am acutely aware of the brevity of it all. The days and nights that seemed to drag on into eternity have smashed together into lightning quick years.
The screaming babies have transformed into funny, smart, and brave young people.
The great majority of my students are seniors, and I refer to them as young adults- young ADULTS. Don’t you see? My baby is already practicing spring football with students who will be in my classroom next year. He is on the cusp, and, if I blink, he will by walking across the stage in a cap and gown. And his sweet sisters will march on right behind him.
‘Slow down,’ you might say. ‘You are fast-forwarding,’ you might say. And you would be right.
I need to slow down.
It’s a lesson I keep learning and forgetting. I run so hard toward pursuing my dreams, succeeding at work, and growing our church.
I often feel as though I must accomplish everything right now. However, these worthy pursuits will still be there to chase in six years. They will wait for me, but the opportunities to be with my children will not. They will grow up before I am ready.
Isn’t that just their way? Arriving and leaving before we are ready.
What a joy these little boundary pushers are. They grow us beyond our capacities and fill the space with love and pride.
Ready or not, here we grow.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rebecca Burtram. Follow her on Instagram here and her blog here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Rebecca here:
‘I’m a teacher, and I’m angry. Then I went to see ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ and I don’t know anymore.’: Teacher says Fred Rogers reminded her that ‘grace doesn’t run out, there isn’t a limited supply’
Spread beauty and strength for others. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.