|Photo: Zachery David Photography|
I watch your long sun-kissed arms gracefully comb through your sandy brown hair. You evaluate your face in the mirror and ask about plucking your eyebrows. Then you strike a pose, looking back at yourself, and ask me what I think of that “look.”
I try not to panic as the stage of “tween” has now entered our lives. We moms resist labels that claim our kids. But at least it helps me know where we’re headed and make a plan for how to get there and beyond. Because really there’s no getting there and back. From the two lines on the pregnancy stick to now, the lines keep moving forward.
I try to stop the camera shutter of my mind from getting stuck on the image of that round, bald baby girl looking back at me, brown eyes all aglow – the first eyes that lit up when they met mine. Because I loved you so much then and I never want to forget those precious years. But I can’t let myself stay there. So, I adjust my view to the growing girl I see in the mirror today and renew my commitment to love you now, as an eight-year-old, and all that means for the next twelve months.
I have a feeling I’ll have to keep doing that in the years ahead. It wasn’t so hard to love you when the rewards were high. Yes, the work was intense, but the coos and kisses, celebrations of developmental milestones, sweet tangled words and I admit, my level of control over your life, helped get me through those early years. But things are quickly changing and my love has to mature along with you.
I’ve heard many wives put it this way, “I thought I loved him when we first got married, but now I realize I had no clue what love was. The depth of my love for him now doesn’t even compare to that early love we had.” And I fear as a parent, I too face a similar temptation to love you in a shallow, self-focused way. Like with every other area of my life, I have to remind myself that parenting, and our relationship, isn’t about how it makes me look and feel.
So, you’re stuck with my love and all the manifestations it must take through the years to help you on to God. If you disrespect me, and use words I never dreamed could come out of that mouth I used to spoon feed, I’ll love you still. And if you hurt the reputation of our family by falling into temptations we taught you to resist, I’ll love you still. And if you question and doubt the God you so easily profess and follow now, I’ll love you still. Because as you grow up, I have to put your childish ways – the ones I love to linger over – behind me and love and treat you like the age you are, not the age I might wish you still were.
My growing love has to warn you then, Stella Grace, that the world wants you to grow up in all the wrong ways. I watch your peers and those just a few years older than you walk around the mall or down the street and see what they think it means. They believe they can have the revealing look and lifestyle without the heartbreaking consequences. The money without the hard work. The scholarship without the training. The relationships without the commitment. The privileges without the responsibility.
But I agree with the writer of Hebrews and “expect better things in your case, things that have to do with salvation…to show diligence to the very end [even through the t(w)een years!], so that what you hope for may be fully realized. [N]ot to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:9,11,12)
So, this is one way I show love to you at age eight: I speak the truth to you and tell you real growing up is growing in every way to be more and more like Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Now grow, Sweet Girl! I mean really grow. Because when growing up is defined in those terms, how could I even want to hold you back?