The Princess Ball Is Over.

It’s a harsh reality to grasp as a parent. Our children will grow up. There will be a day, sooner than later, where they’ll be gone. How do you handle this fact of life?

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My friend’s text was like a fist hitting me square in the chest. “What are your thoughts on the princess ball this year? I don’t know if our girls will want to go again. They were the oldest there last year. Maybe we could do something more grown up with them, like dinner, movie, or a carriage ride downtown?”

“Yeah, I don’t think they want to go anymore. Let’s look at the downtown deal. Sounds fun!” I responded. Then tears filled my eyes.

I sat at my desk in my home office and stared at the screen for a while. I wrestled with what I had just written back to him. It was as if I had stepped through an open door into a brand new unknown world. In an instant the past 13 years flashed through my mind. I saw my girls as babies, then as pre-schoolers, followed by their years through elementary school, and finally to present day.

I’m not an overly-sentinmental guy. I’m pretty dialed in to reality and I don’t linger in a state of fantasy, ever. It’s not like I have moments like this all the time. This was a bit unexpected. On the other hand, I don’t want to leave you thinking that I’m cold-hearted or out of touch. Definitely not the case. In this situation, my father’s heart had been punctured by an unforeseen needle. I was having a hard time grappling with the fact that these two babies of mine were no longer babies. A part of me wanted time to stop. Another part was excited for this new adventure into the teenage years. Yet a third, and more hesitant, part of me knew I was entering into a season of growth.

How do we navigate these tricky waters of parenthood? Back in the day we heard folks make comments like, “You’ll be blown away at how fast time flies,” as we stood in our newborn’s hospital room, or our kitchen, right after arriving home. Even those of us who’ve adopted or fostered-to-adopt have experienced this to some degree. How do we handle this harsh reality of parenting?

Frozen In Time.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t keep our babies frozen in time. They’re growing up. I think we make the mistake of doing this as parents. I know I do. At times I find myself responding to my now teenage daughters as if they were still 4 and 5. It’s a natural response. After all, we knew them as infants. We changed their diapers, fed them their first bottle, and stayed up all night as they cried through a fever.

We’ve watched them grow up. We’ve traveled every step with them as they went from crawling, to toddling, to walking, to not wanting our help, to talking intelligibly, to talking back to us, and so on! There’s not a day that goes by, where I don’t look at my first-born daughter (who nearly looks me in the eye now) and remember her as a tiny infant. I can keep that memory frozen, but I can’t keep her frozen. She’s growing up.

When I was a kid I spent entire summers out on my grandmother’s farm in Kentucky. I can close my eyes and still see the landscape, smell the odor of tobacco hang-drying in the barn or freshly cut hay in the fields. Her farm is as real to me today as it was when I was a kid. Last Christmas I received an amazing gift- my sister gave me a copy of an old oil painting of her farm, that used to hang in her house, framed and all. I stared at the picture for the longest time. After wiping tears away, I found a spot on our wall, and hung it up.

Every so often I glance at the portrait and reminisce. I remember the good ole days on that farm. I remember romping and playing as a kid on the rolling hills. As much as I remember and cherish, though, I can never return to that place. First of all, it doesn’t exist any more. The land was purchased in the late nineties and turned into a neighborhood. The barns were torn down, along with her house and the chicken coop, and a neighborhood pool and fitness center was erected in their place. I literally cannot return. But even if I could, I can never recreate my childhood there. The memory will forever remain etched in my mind, but the place is gone forever.

So it is with our children. They literally cannot stay little forever. They will grow up and change. The landscape of our live’s, our parenting, and our children’s lives will change as well.

Growing Up With Them.

We have to grow up with our children. It’s the only way. As adults, our hearts need to mold and change as our babies grow and change. We have to step into each new stage with a positive attitude and an openness to growth. This is a fact I have begun to learn over the past few years. Just like our children will give up their child-like ways, playtimes, favorite toys, and mature, we have to give up our parenting ways when they were little, mature, and begin to parent in a new way that coincides with their growth.

Part of our growth hinges on our ability to continue to seek advice. You and I must seek advice. When my children were first born, even still toddlers, I listened intently to those who had been-there-done-that, even if I didn’t act like I was. I can never stop doing this. My growth depends on it. I am keenly aware of my limitations as a parent. I don’t know everything. Sure, I’ve been a parent for 13 years, but I still have so much to learn. In this new era, I’m learning the teenage curve. Even after working with teenagers as a youth pastor for 17 years, I’m learning. It’s a whole different ballgame when you’re suddenly the parent of one. 🙂

If you and I want to successfully parent our children through a new stage of life, we must be willing to grow up with our kids. This applies to any new stage we move in to with them.

A New Day.

The princess ball is over. It’s just a fact of life. I have to come to terms with this reality. It stirs my emotions to think about it because I love my girls and I don’t want them to grow up too fast. I also don’t want to miss one moment with them. Fact is, though, we’re upon a new day with them. I’m a little excited about that. It’s an opportunity for new growth, new conversations, and even navigating new trials (which is hard but really good for our growth).

My challenge to all of us, mostly me (yes, I’m pointing the most fingers back at me), is to embrace this new day. Stop trying to keep your children frozen in time if you’ve been doing this. It’s a huge challenge for me. Open yourself up to growth. I’m right there with you. In-spite of the harsh reality that I have to accept, there’s so much opportunity before me!

Question: Have you experienced as a parent, like I have, recently? Share your story. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Nora Matthews

    Wise words. I’ve often said that if I could change one thing about my adolescence it would be that my parents reached out more for their own community, advice, and support while my sister and I grew. Too many parents become isolated and blindsided by their children’s adolescence in ways very different from the parenting toddler experience, which our culture does a better job of providing resources for. There is more shame in seeking strategies for supporting a teenager’s transition to high school than for looking for advice about potty training. I think it’s especially hard with siblings because there is a silly cultural message that if you have parented one child you can parent them all that willfully ignores that all parents grow with their children who emerge from the womb with their own personalities, gifts, and challenges.

    • Thanks for your comment Nora. This is a wise perspective. Keep up the great work with your kids!

    • Kristin Berry

      Hi friend! I agree. Why do we, as a culture, shy away from the transitional teenage years?

      • Nora Matthews

        Because we had a hard enough time navigating them ourselves, it’s hard to watch anyone else go through it.

        • Kristin Berry

          Absolutely!

  • Mary Rose-Smith

    When my oldest (who is now 26 with a two week old baby of her and her darling husband’s very own) was in her senior year of high school, the song “There Goes My Life” by Kenny Chesney was popular. I’m not sure I knew how that song ended for a very long time, because I could either listen to it and bawl – or turn the station. I couldn’t believe my baby was through high school and was leaving for college. The night I drove her to college and drove the 4 hours home in tears, I couldn’t stop crying. Finally my husband asked, ever so lovingly, “Would you rather she stayed here and never fulfilled her goals in life or trust that we raised a good kid and be happy for her?” To this day, I can still see her angelic face at four years old, with huge blue eyes looking up at her daddy puzzled, when he was telling me he was going to his grandfather’s to smoke some fish he had caught. As he was leaving she spoke up, holding two fingers to her mouth, “Daddy, how’re you gonna keep them fish lit?” They will ever be little in our hearts, but I am oh so glad we had faith and she has grown into the beautiful young woman she is today. You have to be their parent when they are little. Now I am lucky I get to also be her friend.