The Summer Solstice marks the period of the year where the days go from getting longer, with more daylight each day, to getting shorter, with longer periods of darkness each night. It’s the halfway point of the solar year, where the days that came before get longer and the days that come after getting shorter.
My daughter recently turned 9 – halfway to 18 – and I can’t help feeling a solstice of our own. The days she will wake up under my roof are markedly numbered. The days left to go are fewer than the days already passed. Nine is the midpoint, the point of no return.
That is breathtaking in the literal sense.
The thought of my daughter having passed the midpoint of the time she’ll spend at home with us makes me want to hang my head over the trashcan. Nine is a giant fist squeezing the blood out of my heart like a sponge.
When I think of my own life, it’s strange to look back and observe the years before I was 18 and to feel like they were just the start of my life. This part of my life that is so huge – the experience of motherhood and familyhood – is just the beginning of my daughter’s life.
It’s so big to me but so small to her.
So knowing that I have fewer days with my daughter than those we’ve already had, I’m getting more intentional about the things I want her to know and learn before she flies out of my nest, from the practical – how-to roast a chicken or buy a car, when to go to the doctor and when to try the chicken soup, how to dress for a party and how to lead a meeting – to the ethereal – how to find a lifelong best friend, the idea of God As You Understand Him/Her, how to forgive, how to keep your head held high when things fall apart. All these things and a million others need to be planted into her head and written on her heart – and now the clock is ticking.
A few weeks ago, my girl couldn’t sleep because she was anxious about growing up and leaving our house (spoiler alert, it’s not even that great of a house, bless her heart), and I assured her that no one will make her leave until she’s good and ready, but that someday she’ll be ready. She doesn’t believe me now, but I have the gift and the curse of both retrospect and foresight, and I know how she feels now, at 9, is not how she’ll feel at 17.
Mamas, your days with your littles are so precious and so few.
The adage “the days are long, but the years are short” is popular because it’s true. Those of you in the trenches of babyhood and toddlerhood and preschool can’t quite see this, and those in the pit of teenager-dom or with adult children might have forgotten it already. So hear me say: this day with your kids is a gift. If you aren’t already on the short side of your time together, you will be soon (and God forbid something happens that cuts your time together even shorter, you never know what’s around the next bend).
Breathe in the way they smell and their little hands that feel so fragile. Listen to their breaths coming from down the hall when they sleep. Think, intentionally, about the things you want to be imprinted on them. Soon, in the blink of an eye, their hands will be as big as yours and will open the door to their apartment or clasp another’s hand in marriage or hold the hands of their own babies. And then they’ll know, this time you had together was so big and so much, and so little and so few.