Having cleared that hurdle (and realized we actually enjoyed running the race), in September, we were faced with Kyle.
Starting at age four through second grade, children join their parents in church for the music and announcements, after which they are released to children's church.
He's joined us for two weeks. The first week they didn't end up dismissing for children's church (I guess the teacher wasn't there), so he sat with us during the whole church service. And he did it. He sat (mostly), he was quiet (mostly) and didn't really disrupt me much. I was so proud of him for mostly just sitting quietly. Even with his Thomas magazine and some crayons, this is hard work for him.
This past week, his energy level was a little higher. Throughout the service, as I stood to sing, or bowed my head to pray, I was also having to pry Kyle off my legs, pick him up, encourage him to sit up, give him the distracting items I brought him, remind him not to talk or to use his whisper voice.
I did feel a little distracted, but instead of fretting I thought of the woman sitting in the row behind us.
Last year she lost a son. He was young (younger than me). It was unexpected.
As moms, we always mourn the loss of each stage of a child's life. That's why when our arms are tired of holding a newborn bean-bag baby, there's always another mother with outstretched arms -- the mother of two school-aged children; a mom-to-be who hasn't yet met her babies; a grandma.
When the energy of our toddlers or preschoolers is about to do us in as we're trying to grocery shop, the smiling eyes of the women who no longer have preschoolers remind us that this stage isn't forever, and we might even miss it when we are shopping alone and unencumbered in the future.
When we don't know what to do with a teenager who is rebelling, the women who have made it through see the rays of sunshine in otherwise dark days. That woman might be able to draw out our teen and remind us of who he really is, or who he is becoming.
So though I was a bit frustrated at church, I was glad that God gave me a glimpse of something more. Thinking of Kyle in this way -- his past, his future, how far he's come and how far he has to go -- reminded me that I'd be saying goodbye to this stage before I knew it. I also tried to think compassionately about those like the woman behind me at church, who not only had to say goodbye to her son's preschool self, but didn't even have the promise of his future to look to.
"Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life."