Today, I googled “men’s jeans with a 38 inch inseam.” And after traveling the superhighways of the internet for a good while, I finally reached the desired destination thanks to the Levi’s website.
Bravo, Levi’s 505 blues, for coming through for my long-limbed, tree-man son.
Kids keep on growin’ on, especially when we’re not looking. If yours are 18 like my sons, you may think they’re done sprouting upward, or have got to be done soon. But then they make you aware of their high water pant legs, and you realize they ain’t done growing yet.
In another way, this describes our family’s entire last couple of years. Just when I think our schedule will settle down and stop growing, I look down to find its ankles showing. We are a family who intentionally builds in white space for rest. Still, teens’ calendars have a way of taking on a life of their own. Our twin sons are high school seniors, and their first semester has been chock-full of school, activities, work, and college applications. And as is usually the case, what affects part of the family affects the whole family.
I tell ya, I wouldn’t trade this time with my older teens for anything. They are a delight and a treasure, and I think the world of them. As one who dreaded the teen years because of all the horror stories that smacked into my ears, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover just how much I enjoy them. It hasn’t been all sunshine and unicorns, of course. But it has been very, very good, even if I’m very, very tired.
Not long ago, I looked back through my parenting posts here, and guess what I’ve mentioned at least once a year for the past several years? Being tired.
Parents of all ages in all stages are tired. Nothing revolutionary there! In that regard, there’s nothing new under the sun.
But when your first kid (or in my case kids) is in his or her late teens, you can look back and see the whole of his or her growing up years. You notice many differences in the stages, of course. But you can also see interesting similarities–and a big common denominator–between the different stages, particularly in those bookend years.
Last week, my husband David and I talked about how we haven’t felt this tired since the boys’ baby and toddler years. And while every year of parenting can wear you out, there’s something about those bookend years of parenting that wring you out too.
At the onset of parenting, you just want to sleep through the night without waking up to feed the baby every two hours. With kids in their late teens, you just want to sleep through the night without waking up to worry about where they might be, literally or metaphorically.
You’re tired from giving too much thought to all the ways they could actually die, be it by choking on a stray marble or crashing into a stray animal crossing the road when they’re at the wheel.
When your kids are tiny, you’ll do anything to get out of the house for a little while. When your kids are teens, you’ll do anything to stay at home for a little while.
The younger years wring you out physically. The older years wring you out emotionally. And through it all, you hope you’ve told them enough that Jesus loves them and you love them, no matter if they’ve spilled their milk or totaled their car.
Those in-between years are hard in and of themselves, absolutely. But these bookend years seem more extreme, partly because they are at the ends of the parenting continuum. And partly because we parents stare at them wide-eyed, overwhelmed by all their demands. When they’re little, we hope and pray we know enough to keep them alive. When they’re older, we hope and pray they know enough to keep themselves alive. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
The bookend years are boulder heavy and full of bright light promise.
They feel cold-steel hard and blanket-soft tender.
Those years taste rich and full like Thanksgiving dinner yet make simple pleasures like bread and chicken noodle soup taste abundant.
And they require regular sunrise faith to resist the prickly fears.
The bookend years prop up our kids as they enter into this world and prepare to make their own way. We open our door to welcome them home, and then we open our door to wave goodbye. We make sure they know the porch light is always, always on for them when they come back home again.
In the words of Gary Morland, we keep home a soft place to land and an encouraging place to launch.
And we realize these kids aren’t the only ones growing up. We’re growing up right alongside them.
Like water on parched ground, we remember that no matter our stage of parenting, we do not have to hold these kids up on our own. There is One who holds them and loves them more than us. When they wobble and topple, God helps them up. When we wobble and topple, God helps us up. It really isn’t all up to us, thank heavens.
God knew what he was doing when he handpicked you to be your kids’ parent. You are the one your kids need most, and they won’t stop needing your support when they stop living under your roof full time. He is for you and he’s holding you.
May we mamas keep on growing toward this truth.
Missy Scudder says
Oh dear Kristen, these are not the bookend years….my kids are still are all in their 30”s (all 4 of them).
Just because the boys might leave home for college in the fall, doesn’t mean you are done…you keep going and going with them.
But its all still part of God doing HIs work in us thru the grind and junk to the joys and happiness of parenting.
Grandparenting is where its at!!! Before you know it and in the blink of an eye- you will be there.
Enjoy every moment you can of their senior year…oh how you will miss them next year.
Life goes by way too fast.
Enjoy and relish this time with them.
Oh I agree–we do keep going and going with them, even if it is in a different way.
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Good Morning Kristen,
Read your post this morning, sitting here crying. In a really sweet way.
I am a bookend parent. My 19 year old daughter is in college in Seattle. My 15 year old son is in prep school in Maine. I wake up most mornings alone here in CT. They’ll both be home for the holiday next week. First time we’ll be together at home since August. Mercy.
I am pleasantly surprised they wanted to cut down the tree together (so I waited to get one) and they made time in their schedules for our annual cookie bake day. Right now I want to say “It’s the little things” but you know as well as I, these things aren’t little. They’re precious and powerful. Just like our kids.
I’m so excited and grateful to be a bookend parent. My heart goes out to those parent’s whose kids didn’t make it this far. Sad to say, we all know someone. “We open our door to welcome them home, and then we open our door to wave goodbye.” That’s the line that got me crying this morning. It is a very different phase of parenting I’m in. I feel so blessed and lucky to be able to do this phase of life with them.
Thank you for your sweet post. I hope you and your family enjoy your holidays to the fullest.
With love and appreciation,
The little things are precious and powerful. Amen, Shelly. Sending love to you and yours.