Last month we went to the beach, and I didn’t have to take swim diapers. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but for eight summers I’ve had to mess with swim diapers. But now all my people use a potty, so I no longer needed swim diapers. Who would have thought that would feel like such an accomplishment? But it did.
These last few months I’ve noticed a shifting, the daily movement seems subtle like the darkness creeping up a few minutes earlier every night. Then, one day you look out your window at 6:00 and notice it’s nearly dark, and you realize just how much the seasons have shifted. This new season carries its own challenges and its own delight. My oldest is nearly half-way through her time at home with us. She is cooking dinner for us and giving me book recommendations. Sometimes when I look over at her I can imagine her at college, books and papers surrounding her and that furrowed look on her face she gets when she’s concentrating. She needs honest answers to her questions. She needs freedom to mess up and try new things. She needs an empty kitchen and the chance to grapple with hard things.
These seasons require much growth from my children, but they also require growth from me, the willingness to surrender control and embrace the messy. I remember when Lydia was a baby, and I would put out her outfit every Sunday so Matt could get her dressed since I would already be at church–a beautiful smocked dress, matching monogrammed bloomers, and a color-coordinated bow. Those days are long gone and not just because I got too tired, but because they grew up and they have an opinion and a style and a personality. I’m not here to make girls who grow up into women just like their mom. I’m here to help cultivate and nourish God’s unique purpose in each of their lives.
I hear a lot of times that girls always this and girls always that as though gender decides far more of our lives than it actually does. While I certainly think there are some things that inherently come with our femininity, one of the gifts of having four daughters is getting to see how different each of them was made. While we still have a heavy pink influence over here, we try to make sure the books and toys and shows we allow in our house remind our girls that they aren’t cookie cutters, they aren’t damsels in distress, and they aren’t princesses who need to be coddled. They are unique, woven in their mothers’ wombs for a kingdom purpose.
When I see one wanting to take charge, I can remind myself she is craving responsibility and leadership. When I see one whose room looks like a bomb went off after rest time, I can recognize she is merely trying to keep up with her explosive imagination. When I see one who needs a longer glance or a reassuring wink, I can acknowledge the value of her presence not for what she does but simply for who she is. When I see one take steps backward, I can remember that growth is hard and messy and sometimes we just need to be held and told it’s okay to try again.
It’s true what everyone tells you when you first hold your baby. You blink and it passes by. It’s also true that this parenting thing is hard and exhausting, and you mess up a lot. But somewhere along the way we realize those shards of growth we have fought for–the moments when we think we might lose it (or actually do, in fact, lose it), the moments when we just sigh and go to sleep so we can try again tomorrow, the moments when we look up and see a young lady where there used to be a child, the moments when we no longer have to pack swim diapers for the beach–have been fitted together just right to make the masterpiece the Father always saw.