As parenting goes, I have always dreaded the day when I said these words: “THIS is worse than potty training.” Seriously, I can’t stand potty training. It’s messy and time consuming and just . . . ewww. I prefer changing a diaper 10 times over to re-outfitting a two-year-old and scouring whatever surface she had occupied whilst missing the mark.
Since my kids are pretty close in age–just three-and-a-half years between the first and the third–I was potty training at least one of them for three straight years. I’m being self-aware not self-deprecating when I tell you: I’m not good at teaching toddlers the tricks of the toilet. I’m not.
My mantra then: “I dread the day when I say, ‘This is worse than potty training.'”
And I did not say it. I didn’t say it when eight-year-old Trellace spent five days in the hospital because of a ruptured appendix that led to peritonitis, or when, at 16, she went to summer camp in Nairobi (of all places). I didn’t say it when pneumonia pierced a hole through Baker’s 10-year-old lung or when he got his first girlfriend. And I haven’t said it despite Margaret’s ongoing issues with migraines and asthma.
I guess in all of those situations, I felt like I had some control even if in reality, I didn’t. I’ve had migraines all my life and I’ve studied asthma since Baker was diagnosed at 15 months old. We had great doctors in Asheville so my children had access to excellent medical care. Baker has always chosen great friends, whether they were girls or boys, and Trellace was well prepared for her African adventure.
But this stage? THIS is worse than potty training.
You see, stitched into the very fiber of my being is a longing for all three of my children to have the desires of their hearts. Likewise, I want them to grow into adults, not to remain children. I want them to reach for the moon and I want to give them a boost to help them get there. I want them to move on to the next stage (the alternative is unthinkable), and to continue becoming all that God has created them to be.
And I don’t want to let them go.
I want my children to go to the colleges of their dreams. And I want to keep them in the nest a bit longer. I want them to soar and to stay close, to explore and to linger.
Plus, I want all of that for each of their friends.
Oh! what great friends my kids have had! We have played together, laughed together, and dreamed together. So, when each of my kids left home, I felt like I was not just letting go of my own child, but also of a group of friends who had settled into my heart alongside them. It’s hard, nearly unbearably so.
In fact–here, I’ll say it again–it’s worse than potty training. Worse, and just as inevitable. I wouldn’t have wanted to take my kids to kindergarten in diapers and I wouldn’t want my kids or their friends to grow old without growing up and embracing the gifts of adulthood.
Parents of almost-adults, I feel you. It’s all of the things all at once: a time to celebrate the painful, beautiful, gut-wrenching, hope-filled transition from what has been to what will be. I promise it’s worth it. Just like potty training was.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . ” Ecclesiastes 3:1