It happened this past week. It wasn’t a day I was dreading, exactly, having never thought about it before, but when it came it felt a bit like a train had rushed past me, just a few feet away, and blown me off course. Like the world had shifted a little and I’d only just noticed.
My youngest child lost her last baby tooth.
Suddenly, I felt about 10 years older. Funny how that keeps happening. I could reach 200 years old at this rate, even if it is only in my mind.
I said I didn’t dread it, and I meant it. I am a firm believer in embracing every stage of life (even if they do make me feel old), but I do admit I didn’t always feel that way.
When our oldest, Ian, was first born, I couldn’t wait for him to learn to smile, to roll over, to crawl, to walk and run. I eagerly watched for signs of his next accomplishment. I updated my husband each evening with the daily progress report: “He almost rolled onto his tummy today! He can get onto all fours!”
But “Don’t rush him,” was Colin’s response. “Enjoy each stage. It will all come in time.”
At first I thought he was crazy. Philosophical, but crazy. I was so excited to see Ian grow! I wanted him to be the first kid in the history of the world to walk at the age of seven months. (It took him 18.) I wanted him to speak in complete sentences at 12 months. (Well, that kinda did happen.) I wanted him to be a superstar.
But Colin was right. Because as I pushed eagerly for the next stage, I sometimes lost sight of the brilliance of the immediate.
By the time Ian was learning to tie his shoes and ride a bicycle, I had wised up. I had learned, by then, that all of this was going way too fast. I then started dreading some of the “lasts”. The last time I picked him up, long dangly legs and all, and held him close. The last time he wanted to hold my hand; the last episode of Sesame Street.
Somewhere in there, Katie was born, and as we entered the world of infanthood again, I learned to embrace the now. I realized that each stage was, indeed, something to cherish. I looked forward to her progress, but if it didn’t come for a while, so be it. I just enjoyed the moment. I held her hand a little longer, knowing the time would come soon enough that she’d want to let go.
And that helped me with Ian, too. Because he’d reached the letting go stage by then, and that had to be OK as well. I wouldn’t have wanted him to stop growing! If he’d stop learning and progressing, it would have meant that something was wrong.
I finally reached the point where I neither forced nor dreaded change, because change will come, no matter what. Bikes will be ridden and teeth will be lost, and it’s all good.
I wonder, sometimes, how God puts up with us. We’re constantly bridging that balance of growth and stagnancy. We forget the faithfulness of God that we’ve seen in the past and we worry. We stay in the “childhood” of our spiritual lives, and then the baby steps we do occasionally take can trip us up the very next week. We doubt. We let go of his hand.
But he never lets go of ours.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:23-26 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.