By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
“For every stage your baby passes through, for every sweet phase you think you’ll miss, you’ll get new stages, new phases. It’ll keep on getting more and more interesting all the time. Just wait until you can have a conversation with your nine-year-old. It’s wonderful. Change doesn’t have to be bad. It’s different of course, or it wouldn’t be called change.”
This is a paraphrase of what I told my oldest daughter as we discussed her dreading to see her nearly four-month-old baby boy change so fast. I remember having this same conversation with our very wise veterinarian when he asked me how I liked being a new parent. Yes, veterinarian, not pediatrician. I had taken my dog in for a checkup, not my child. You never know where your pearls of wisdom will come from so keep your ears open.
Yesterday, while sitting in church experiencing what we call “Youth Sunday” I was struck with how much I missed the years my husband and I were youth leaders; having an intimate knowledge, a friendship with so many young people like those leading this service. As a trio of young ladies sang their solo parts and then harmonized, I was taken back to a time when that would have been my oldest daughter and her singing partners. I recalled how our triplets, now twenty-two used to sing, play their instruments, speak, and participate in mission trips like these kids were doing. I thought back to days when we’d have anywhere from forty to eighty young people and their families at our house for what we called, “Fun on the Farm” or a “lock in” or just to hang out. Those were busy, exhilarating times.
For a few moments, I allowed melancholy to set in. I even told our minister and a few friends how looking back had hit me. They all get it. They’re in similar stages of life where their kids are off doing their own things, forging paths, as we all did a few decades ago. I marvel at how little time I spent back home once I left my parental nest. I was off to whatever life held, hardly giving a thought to how my absence affected my parents. It’s hard to know what an empty nest feels like until you’ve tried it for yourself. Now, I can’t get enough treasured time in my mom’s nest, heading there every chance I get.
Life is one change after another. One more readjustment to a new normal. Unless we live in a household where nobody leaves, and the whole extended family stays on the block or the farm, there’s bound to be change. An alteration of sounds, smells, and activity. Perhaps an empty feeling or possibly, a feeling of completion. A million unexpected feelings may swirl around in all that newfound space.
Like it or not, babies grow, turning into people with their own paths to explore, mountains to climb, and passions to pursue. Hopefully, we grownup people keep exploring, climbing, and pursuing. There are opportunities enough to go around for each age—each stage. It’s all in how we look at them. Are they obstacles or opportunities? A change might squeeze our hearts or a change could allow more time to work on a long-ignored bucket list or at least time to tackle a to-do list.
While trying to keep up with our household of six and their busy schedules, I remember saying on a regular basis, “I’ll do that once the kids are grown.” Well, they’re grown and gone. Actually, they’re more like in and out, here and there which is fabulous.
After four years of this big-old-empty house business, I’m actually enjoying this new stage of life. The one where my calendar is less filled with my kid’s schedules and more filled with my own. That’s a pretty sweet place to be. I must admit, with a new grandbaby, I’m happy to fill a few of those calendar blocks with his schedule needs. Keep Baby Wesley. I’m moving into a new stage, yet again, and it keeps life interesting. Whatever we give up in one stage, we get back in multiples in the next ones. That’s what my wise veterinarian told me about parenting, and it’s still true.