Long Days and Short Years

Last weekend we hit a major milestone in our house. The first sleep-over. 

Rest assured, the sleep-over did not take place in our home. No, no, I’m much too smart for that.
I figure I’ll let my friends all enjoy those “firsts” ahead of me, and perhaps by the time my daughter is 10-years-old (many years from now) I’ll be ready for the onslaught of shrieking girls. That and the hope that the pre-bedtime jitters, the wetting of the sleeping bags, and inevitable calls home to parents at 3-in-the-morning to “come pick up your crying child” will all be in the past by then. I can hope, right?
What shocked me was how unprepared I was for this “first”. Saturday night I stopped to kiss my sleeping (3-year-old) baby and tuck her in for the night. She looked so peaceful, even though just hours before she had sobbed herself to sleep because she missed her big sister. They are close in age and share a room, and I’m hoping they continue to be BFF’s forever.
I watched from the doorway as my husband bent to kiss her sweaty forehead, and I honestly had to choke back tears. Why? Because I realized that my 5-year-old is one foot out the door already! I know, a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s still how I felt that night. (Maybe it was that allergy medication I had taken about an hour earlier. Note: go back and read the side effects on the box.) 
As I got ready for bed it dawned on me that we are moving towards empty bedrooms in our house. What’s sad is there’s nothing I can do to stop it. From the moment my children exited the womb they are growing up and moving into whatever story God has for them.
Don’t misunderstand – this idea excites me. The notion that I’m not just raising children, but actual little people, made in the image of God with a unique and specific purpose. Each one with their own passions, personalities and plans. I am definitely the parent who applauds and cheers on their sense of individualism, creativity and adventure. What I was lamenting, is the “growing up and into their own story” as it is happening much too quickly.
I mean didn’t we just send her off on her first day of preschool like a week ago? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was potty training? Is she the same drooling toothless baby that I sang and rocked to sleep just a little while ago?
But here I am with this red-headed firecracker who oozes joy and has a fierce streak of independence (no clue where that came from). She has more adventure and faith in her blood at 5, than I did at 25 (and if you know me well, that’s saying a lot). She assured me over and over that “I’ll be fine mom,” when I told her that I would come and get her, at any time, if she changed her mind about staying the night.
When I picked her up, she shared that her favorite part of the night was staying up late, watching movies and eating ice cream. (I shudder when I  think of what the teenage years will be like.) While she recounted the 24-hour event, I was reminded of the phrase, “the days are long, but the years are short”.

I don’t think there is a more fitting way to describe the emotional roller-coaster of parenting.

On the one side there is the overwhelming, limitless love for our brilliant, beautiful and perfect children. However, this feeling quickly fades when the moon comes out and they turn into energy-sucking, whining, complaining kids that we swear were switched at birth. “How can they be the same child?” we ask ourselves. And how can I, as a loving mother, go so quickly from a nurturing loving mama bear (who will do anything to protect her babes) to the mother who wants to rent them out to anyone who can guarantee privacy in the bathroom and 5 minutes of quiet. Please Lord, just 5 minutes. 
Regardless of whether you’ve laughed or cried through those last couple paragraphs, if you’ve nodded along in any way, then this next part is for you. And if you cannot relate, chances are you are just minutes into this whole parenting thing, and your time will come Sweet New Mommy. Your time will come. 
Dear Momma, you are not alone. Not in your fear that the days are quickly slipping away from you. Nor in your fear that you (or your child) may not make it to their next birthday. We all battle those feelings. Some of us just hide it better.
We have all lived those days, weeks, seasons alongside you. You are not a bad mom. You do not win the “worst-mom-of-the-year” award, like my friend texted me this morning. Why? Because you are reading this with tears. You care for those babes, and you have the living power of Jesus inside of you.

And tomorrow will dawn a new day.

Please be encouraged in knowing that tomorrow you can start over. That’s the beautiful, grace-filled, freedom-ringing part of this life with Jesus. We get to try again tomorrow. Free of the guilt that weighs down our hearts and hangs over our heads.
The days are long, friend, I know.Some days are so, so long.Help me Jesus, the days are long (especially when it’s only 8 am I’ve already locked myself in my room in a time out).
But the years, are so, so short.
Relish the days when it is easy. When your children are sweat. When whatever you’re doing seems natural and you’re laughing and having fun and they are being obedient to you, and kind to their siblings (because it won’t last – just joking, but maybe). When you are snapping pictures and creating memories and the all seems right with the world, stop, and take a breath. Savor that one perfect moment. That feeling of “I’ve got this”, “I’m doing well”, “We are going to be alright.”

Because chances are, the day will come when you will give anything to have the long, long days back.