My high school freshman band student brought her long black concert dress home a few weeks ago, and I told her to try it on because it was clearly too long and needed to be hemmed.
Except that when she did try it on, it was exactly the right length. In my mind, she was still that little girl of a few years ago. My head and heart haven't quite caught up with the lovely young woman my baby has become, the one who’s almost as tall as I am.
And yet I do not really mourn the loss of that little girl. For one thing, I have not lost her. Her mind and her spirit and her heart and her character are all still here, just in a body I can share clothes with.
For another thing, growing up is what children are supposed to do, and seeing it happen is a privilege of parenting. There is a whole new group of parents in Florida, in fact, who will be denied this privilege. I feel like I should try to honor what they have lost in some tiny way by being grateful for what I still have: the opportunity to let my children go rather than having them ripped from me.
Would I love to have my girls be small enough again for a little while so I could nestle them against my shoulder? Of course! Do I wish I could go back in time for a few days to their younger years and appreciate those years in ways only hindsight would allow? Of course.
But most of the time, I want my children to get too big for me to hold so they can take hold of other things: relationships and jobs and opportunities and passions and maybe, someday, their own babies.
I want my children to grow up so they can grow into the people God created them to be.
I want my children to be able to leave me so they can find what's waiting for them.
I want my children to not need me so much anymore so they can meet their own needs and the needs of others.
What I've come to realize is this: we have these children to hold them, but we raise them to release them.
We want them to love us enough to stay with us, but we want them to feel loved enough by us to leave us.
And then, we hope they love us enough, still, to come back to us sometimes...not as who they were when they left, but as who they have become.