“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” –James Taylor
For a significant portion of my life, I carried my young sons on my hip. The warmth of my boys clinging to me like monkeys on a tree, their legs wrapped around my middle, their feet dangling, their hands playing with my necklace or in my hair – that warm imprint of them still lingers like a phantom limb.
Back then, people would say to me, “Enjoy it, because it goes so fast.” I heard these words as if from the platform by a rushing train. At the time I barely discerned their meaning. Those seasoned parents made sense, but someone was about to put a strange object in his mouth and I had to go stop him.
That’s the mindset I lived in for several years: Constantly monitoring small boys, keeping them safe, fed, entertained, potty trained, etc… Now, that time is gone.
I sent my teenage son to Guatemala on a mission trip this summer. My pastor husband has been leading trips to Guatemala since before we were married. I’ve been with him several times and when our children were young, we took them with us too.
Aidan was five and we taught him the phrase, “Puedo jugar?” which means, “Can I play?” He said these two words all over Guatemala and no one turned him down. He played toy trucks with children in the market. He played soccer with children in the field. He was a little missionary.
The trip this summer would be different. Aidan is nearly fourteen. He would be on a roof in a foreign country doing construction. He would be with his father, but I wouldn’t be there. Communication back home would be sketchy. Could I let him go?
Could I let him go? The question echoed in my mind as we sat at the kitchen table and discussed the details back in the spring. I had many concerns, some so devastating I dared not speak them out loud.
But to see the excitement in Aidan when we talked about not only this trip, but a mission trip to Cleveland as well… how could I not let him go?
The thing I’m learning at this stage in parenting is that there are moments of letting go along with almost every day. This is the first fall I won’t have a son in elementary school. I have two middle school boys. How did that happen?
Owen went to church camp a few weeks ago and got on the van without saying goodbye or having that last hug with me. He’s too cool to hug me in front of his friends. I knew it would happen sometime. I just didn’t know that time would come in a flash of a moment.
When Aidan went to Cleveland, it was the first time one of our kids visited a city that Matt and I had never visited. On their free day, Aidan went with the youth to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saw a Great Lake, watched an Indians game… All things we’ve never experienced.
He’s growing into his own person, both of my boys are. Time seemed to go so slowly (The Righteous Brothers) when they were small, when I was knee-deep in diapers and toys were strewn all over my house.
But really, life moves pretty fast (Ferris Bueller).
This summer has been marked by life-changing events for my sons. Aidan gave up two weeks of video games to help others in Guatemala and Cleveland. When he tells me about what he’s seen and done, I know these experiences have shaped who he is and who he will become.
Owen was baptized this summer. He’s been reading his Bible on his own and asking me hard questions. On that church trip, his children’s minister texted me, “He’s a sponge.”
And isn’t it true? They are soaking it all up, our children. The life they are given, the time that’s passing, the experiences we open up for them. There’s a little letting go every day.
When James Taylor sings about enjoying the passage of time, he asks, “Isn’t it a lovely ride?” Yes, it is. I’m thankful for all of it.
Rev. Melanie Kilby Storie lives in Shelby, NC with her pastor husband, Matt, and her two sons, Aidan and Owen. Currently a tutor at a local school, Melanie is finishing work on a novel, Wildwood Flower set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina about a girl who can talk the fire out of a burn.