It is not a rhetorical question meant to insight the guilt and chagrin of the child. For some reason every time I heard this phrase as a kid, I always felt guilty for growing up, like I was somehow doing something wrong by getting older!
But as a parent, I now understand that this question is really an expression of heartache. Of course we want our children to grow up to healthy, functioning adults, but it's also a sad marker of time passing and days and years we can never return to.
Whats behind all this emotional rambling?
Today James started real school.
Where did my baby go?
Yes, he's been in preschool for 4 years, but for some reason starting pre-kindergarten today seems different. It's the start of real school - longer days, friendships that will grow each year, and soon he'll be able to read and write and before I know it he'll be all grown up.
No, my five year old is not leaving for college today, but I can suddenly see and feel just how soon that day will come.
Where did my baby go?
This might seem ridiculously silly, but I can honestly see a total change in my perspective as a parent from this event.
Last week I began working on a quilt design for a quilt representing a mother and child. Last week I depicted the two figures as trees rooted together side by side.
That's as good an explanation for my previous line of thinking as I can illustrate. I felt James as a permanent fixture in my life, rooted next to me. The other quilt I've designed with mother and child, the figures were literally interconnected:
But now these illustrations don't work for me. They don't accurately represent the true nature of our children - gifts given for a short time.
It seems silly that I of all people could forget this. Yes, we can have children, raise them, love them, but there are no guarantees they will stay close. Once grown, it is the child's decision to stay close or to fly away to distant places.
Last night I could suddenly feel James's absence from my life. From now on, he will be away at school from 7 until 4 - the longest block of time ever. All summer I was looking forward to this time to quilt and work, but now...now I wish I could just have a few more years of my baby back.
I know I'm not the only parent who lives with regrets. I should have played more, worked less, paid more attention, smiled, laughed, cuddled, and hugged more often. No matter how much time we have, we wish we could have a bit more.
I know it's normal to feel this way. My dad warned me that I might grieve a bit today and he was right. It's sad, but it's a good sad. I'm grieving the years gone, and at the same time making a dedication for the years left. They will not be missed or wasted.
Today I'm going to start working on a new quilt design and again the mother figure will be a tree, but this time the child will be winged like a bird.
Our children are like birds. They roost for a short time in our loving branches, but one day they have to fly away.
|Sorry for the bad sketch, I only had paper towels to draw on!|
He was every inch my brave sweet boy flying off to new adventures, and I could only sit and watch, wish him luck, and drive away.
Here's to the years we have.