As I scurried past the sea of parents that day, my eyes mostly averted, I caught their smiles of empathy. It was a bittersweet understanding that passed between us. One such mom - a sister in Christ, I might add - stopped her own quick steps to offer a hug in solidarity. "You can do this," she smiled.
It was the last of the "firsts," and my tears, sudden and spilling, refused to be restrained.
Just two months ago, my "baby," the last born of the three "beaks" in our nest, headed for her first day of kindergarten. She was fine. Make that thrilled. For long years she had waved goodbye to her siblings as they headed to their classrooms each day, and it was finally her turn. As the teacher gave me a gentle nudge out the door, my baby asked if I was going to be OK without her.
I would be, of course. But I needed a minute (and a Kleenex). Thirteen years of pregnancy, nursing, preschool, and days dictated by nap schedules, feedings, play-dates, and countless trips to the zoo, the museum and the farm flashed in front of me. I was so very fortunate to get to spend so much time at home caring for my brood when they were young, working (for pay) part time. Not that it was easy, mind you. Parenthood is about as full time as a job gets.
The work was hard, sometimes monotonous, thankless and, at times, lonely and isolating. But God had whispered (or maybe bonked me over the head) on many occasions that I was right where He wanted me to be. For a season, I was called to use my gifts from the sphere of home, church and school. But it didn't mean I didn't stare out of my kitchen window many days, wondering what I was missing out on doing for the great big world out there.
So many of those days I staved off the craving to "enlarge my territory" (1 Chron. 4:10). But dishes, laundry, and the pressing needs of young children had a way of grounding me in the present. I lived under the tyranny of the urgent. And it was almost impossible to imagine the time would come when the days' rhythms would change so drastically.
So with my smallest one safely, ecstatically ensconced in school, I was, for the first time in many years, at home alone. I had dreamed of that moment - of peace and quiet. And the sound of it was thundering. I allowed myself a few still moments to mourn the end of those years - and to praise God for that season. Then, I ‘fessed up to my fear of the new one that would follow.
You see; I had mastered my role - well, as much as any mother can master it. Meaning, I accepted my shortcomings, and lived in grace. But it was time for me to generate more income for my family; time to learn new skills; time to ask God to reveal new plans for me in my faith journey. According to the Creator, there is a time and a season for everything (Ecc. 3: 1-8). And as I looked again outside my window, He was there to walk alongside me in my trepidation. Together this fall, we welcomed my spring.
One day, not long after she had skipped so gleefully to school, my wee one asked if she could come back home to spend her days with me once again. I gently held her and kissed her small, sticky hands and inhaled the sweet scent of her fading babyhood. And explained that while I missed her, she and I would each have to embrace a new season.
I think we're both ready.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident and freelancer Diane Meehl worships, serves and enjoys fellowship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at email@example.com.