My baby starts high school this year.
She joins her sister as the last two students in the Macias Academy. And just last year they looked like this:
Alright. Maybe it wasn't last year. But it seems like it.
These two have always been "the little girls" in our family of seven kids, a title they will carry perpetually. But in reality they aren't that little any more. And I have to deal with that.
Motherhood is a frenetic dance of long days and rushing years. As soon as I figure out one stage and develop some skill at maneuvering through it, I wake up to find myself in a brand new one. Much of the previous, hard-earned knowledge evaporates. The principles never change, but new tactics are required. And so it goes, year after year until all of a sudden, I look up and find the eyes of near-adults staring back at me.
No one tells you how painful motherhood is. Forget birth, when the pain is off the charts. They have developed medicine for that, which I finally tried during my seventh birth. Should have used it sooner. But what about when your toddler's forehead rams your nose? Or when you catch your preschooler coming down the slide by taking a foot to the gut? Or when you "helpful" ten-year-old rams the shopping cart into your heel? And that is just the physical pain.
Those instances don't touch the ache and worry that clouds every thought as a fever soars or a bone breaks. Add to that the weight of academic challenges, unmet dreams, or struggles with difficult teachers, unfair coaches, or unkind friends.
If it is a fixable problem, then just get out of Mom's way. She is on the way and she is fixing. So there.
The real struggle is as my kids age and I can't fix their problems any more. Or, even worse, I could fix their issues, but they will be a better adults if I don't. THAT is the worst ever.
As my last two navigate high school I can tell my fixing days are drawing to an end. I will be able to walk beside them and advise (when they are willing to listen), but my white charger is going to have to stay in the barn.
Of course I can pray. Oh, how I can pray.
And I will need to pray. As our kids leave young adulthood and embark on the real adult adventures, the problems and consequences increase exponentially. Not to burst the bubble of toddler parents, but it is not easier parenting adults. Give me a newborn baby any day.
I am older than when my first child hit this high school stage, which has pros and cons. On the con side I am more tired and struggle to keep up. But on the pro side, I am acutely aware, as I wasn't then, that I must hold on to these last days with their sacred, fleeting opportunities.
I must be alert to recognize the chance to help adjust the sails, or shore up a problem area.
I must be mindful of moments when the near-adult heart cracks open for input, and then perceive when it closes again and my advice starts being received as nagging.
I must be ready for shared laughs and fun opportunities no matter how weary I am.
I must be vigilant to not compromise my convictions in the face of obstinate rejection. I value my child more than my pet ideas, but I value God and His laws more than my child, and more than myself for that matter.
At some point they move out, but for now we share the same roof. Within that truth lies a holy commission to invest in their lives while I have the chance. I can't waste a single moment being distracted. I will never get this time back.
So let's grab our gangly, bristly, exuberant, moody, wonderful high schoolers and love them with the love of Jesus. It is the most holy ministry on the planet.