I dreaded summer. Last May, as the days ticked steadily toward the final school bell, I busied myself getting comfortable in a spacious pit of despair.
Our last two summers had been troubling. Draining. Exhausting. Discouraging.
How was this one going to be better?
But the Lord was gracious, His mercies new and glorious. And we drank deeply of the sweetness of this fleeting and fragile season. Sunscreen and sand were our uniforms. We ate watermelon and s’mores until we nearly burst. There were days that stretched unending, we packed in so much togetherness. For these last few weeks, the sky has been our audience and the pool our respite. We even snuck in a vacation, something we haven’t attempted since the ill-fated trip of summer 2014.
When our revelry came to a close with the rumbling of the school bus one clear, cool Thursday morning, we were barely ready, our eyes still fixed on the sun we’d grown accustomed to soaking up. Though it must be noted: its rays had already begun to weaken in its inevitable adieu to summer.
As my oldest sons dutifully rinsed out their cereal bowls, donned their backpacks, and, beckoned by their dad, shuffled out the front door for an obligatory first-day photo, I noticed only one thing: their feet.
There they both stood on great big huge man-sized feet the expense of which could bankrupt our family.
I never gave them permission to sprout man-sized anything ever, much less at the tender ages of nearly ten and nearly thirteen.
But late night talk by late night talk, homework assignment by homework assignment, punishment by punishment, my sons had defied me. They’d rebelled against my idea of what they should be and when they should be it and how they should achieve it, and they’d begun tapping on the door of manhood on their own terms. In spite of me, they are growing up.
Into some pretty promising dudes.
Into my very favorite comrades.
Into guys I trust.
Following dad’s photo shoot, those oversized feet walked to the bus stop, taking the first steps into a new chapter for our family.
Yesterday morning it was Caleb’s turn. “Just drop me off here,” he said as we pulled into the parking lot bordering the building that houses his pre-k class. Always our resident go-getter, Caleb was out the sliding van door before I’d even unbuckled my seatbelt. In hot pursuit, I assured him that imaneedaminute here.
But he never heard me.
He was too busy charging across the parking lot on his own big feet, eager to dive headlong into the stream of parents and kids entering the building. His latest adventure had begun. Toddlerhood was officially behind him.
This morning brought the final phase. “Bye, Mom!” she said cheerily, never looking back. At long last, Lydi had joined the ranks of the school crowd, bound for her first day of four-year-old preschool.
And just like that, it was done. For thirteen years and four kids, I mothered my way through toddlerhood. First Blondie, then Curly Top. We’d nearly escaped once, but then came The Man Child and The Girly Girl in rapid-fire succession. While some remnants of toddlerhood will remain, my kids have conspired together to stage the greatest coup of their young lives. Diapers and bottles and naps will never rule our days again. Each one of my kids has done his or her part to see to it that we no longer need strollers or cribs or swaddlers. Hours spent burning off winter energy in the mall playland or pacing the living room in the wee hours are distant memories.
Good, sweet, cherished memories.
We will miss those slow-paced days of snuggling and crawling around together on the floor, but my rebellious kids and their burgeoning feet are right: it’s time for us to press into adventures of a new kind.
We are ready.