Today is our only begotten daughter’s final day of high school classes. Madeline’s got some random finals and a couple AP tests scattered through the next week, but this is it for her secondary learning. She’s giddy as a schoolgirl – which, I guess, fits. I’m excited for her, but…
Nancy and I shouldn’t have even had this shot at parenting. According to our doctors, we would have a better chance of creating a human-ish sub-species out of random DNA we found laying around the house than we would have of producing a child of our own (admittedly, he used different words, primarily, I believe, because he found the term “sub-species” to be pejorative). But God in His wonderful grace blessed us with this amazing child who has her mom’s beautiful looks, her dad’s obnoxious sense of humor, and a strong will that must have been passed down from previous generations. This fall she’ll be leaving the over-protection of her only-child’s nest and flying off to Colorado Christian University, where her bedroom count will decrease from 2 to ½. And she couldn’t be more giddy about it. And I couldn’t be more excited for her, but…
On Sunday, we had a baby dedication. Nick and Natalie brought nine-week old Logan to present her to the Lord. After leading Logan’s parents in a few commitment statements, I took her in my arms. Well, hands actually – she is still too tiny to use up a whole arm. It had been a long time since I’d held a baby that young. She twisted just a little during the transfer, but then settled once she felt secure again. I had forgotten how little nine weeks is. I had forgotten the lightness and pliability of tiny baby bodies. I had forgotten the sound of the soft breathing. I had forgotten that wonderful new baby smell – an odor that could be slightly unpleasant if it was attached to anything else, but on a baby it is the smell of freshness and growth and potential.
I prayed over Logan, then reluctantly passed her back to her parents. As I walked up to the stage to begin my sermon, my mind was very far away from the notes that were waiting on my iPad. I was thinking of that first time I held Madeline, wondering how she could look so much like Nancy yet so much like me yet so different from the both of us. I was thinking of all the milestones we celebrated as she grew – each one cherished by Nancy and me since we knew that for us each was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It was one of those “life-flashing-before-your-eyes” moments, but it wasn’t my life that was flashing. It’s a long journey to get from nine-weeks to high school graduation – from Logan to Madeline. Nick and Natalie are going to do a fantastic job. Their love for that little girl is written on every word they say to her and every touch that they give to her.
As I look at Madeline, I’m feeling like Nancy and I did a pretty darn good job with her, too. On Sunday afternoon, I shot a video interview with Madeline for a project she had in AP Literature. It was essentially a “who has influenced you and how have you changed over the years” retrospective. Her answers bolstered my already high confidence that she is going to do great as she leaves home. She said that her mom was the one who taught her compassion for others and how to serve. She said that I was the one who taught her that laughter can get you through any problem, big or small. She said that I was also the one who taught her that if you are stuck talking to somebody that you don’t want to talk to, then just ask them questions – people love to talk about themselves. Afterwards I informed her that while this is very true, I don’t remember wording it quite like that. I could see by the twinkle in her eyes that she already knew that, but she just wanted to see me squirm a bit. That’s my girl.
What encouraged me most was that in this video that will be viewed by all in her secular high school class, she talked about the importance of her faith and her desire to serve others – particularly in a missions setting. That’s when I knew we’d done okay. This girl loves her Lord, and what excites her most about CCU next year is getting to know all those other Christian girls so that they can all grow in their faith together.
Parents, we’ve got one shot at these kids. Eighteen years – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less – to pour into them while they’re still in a captive setting. Sometimes we’re exhausted, sometimes we’re frustrated, sometimes we feel like just retreating for while – those are all natural feelings. Problem is that when we sign up for parenthood, we give up our rights to exhaustion, frustration, and retreat. There’s nothing wrong with mom and dad taking a night out every now and then – in fact, it’s a good thing. But those kids need to be the heart and soul of all we do. They need to factor into every decision we make, because little eyes are watching every move we make and they’ll learn so much more from what we do than what we say. Eighteen seems like a long way from nine weeks. It’s not.
Grandparents, the same holds true for you. Your grandkids are going to be ga-ga over you when they’re young and are going to take you for granted when they become older. Your commitment to them needs to be unwavering. You can bring a balanced perspective that is one step removed from the occasional heat that occurs inside the actual house. Your patience, grace, and endless pursuing of your grandkids matters greatly, even when you think it doesn’t. Lower your expectations, take them as they are, and let them know that you are the ones that they can always come to for open-armed love.
It’s going to be tough come August when Nancy and I drive away from the CCU campus. But the difficulty in leaving her behind will not come from worry. She’s well prepared and God has her squarely in His hands. The struggle will be the Madeline-shaped hole that will be left in our home. And while Nancy and I are far from prepared for that, we have peace knowing that God has us squarely in His hands, too.