As school has been quickly approaching my kids have expressed their anticipation to return. "You'll just be wishing for vacation days once you're back in school," I reminded them. One child responded with these words: "Well, summer hasn't been that great because you never let us do things with our friends. At least when we're at school we get to see them everyday."
It is not true, by the way, that I never let them do things with their friends. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit more protective than most parents, but I try to be sure that my kids have plenty of friend time intermingled with their family time. They are already running around enough as it is with Cross Country practices (sometimes twice a day), Scouts and church activities, piano lessons, appointments, etc. We are not all at home together as a family often enough.
Here's the way I figure it, though. I only get my kids for their first 18 years. That's nothing! Do you know how quickly we went from this:
It was like a blink! This month we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary - but I can still distinctly remember picking out that awesome peach dress with the big shoulder pads and lace collar for our first professional photo together. Time flies!
So I blink, and 18 years have passed. Then, one by one, we lose the kids to college, roommates, jobs, missions... and even eventually to their own marriages and families. Maybe lose isn't the right word. I do look forward to these landmark moments but recognize that they will have their own lives at this point - they will make decisions without needing my approval. They will take care of themselves and no longer be dependent on me for life's necessities. I do look forward to this aspect of their independence... but at the same time I do not look forward to it. My heart is torn when I think of their futures. More specifically, their futures without me, their mother.
Why can I not pull this jumble of thoughts from my head and form them into coherent sentences!?
What I'm trying to say in all of this rambling is that I want my kids around as much as I can keep them here while they're still under our roof. 18 years is such a short time! They are going to be living with Allen and I for probably less than 1/4 of their lives. Why does that seem so unfair to me? I want to build an abundance of memories and share plenty of laughter. I want us to dance and sing together. I want to teach them the value of service and the skills they will need in their individual futures. I want to bake them their favorite treats, cook up the meals that they love and talk about what they have learned in the books they are reading. I want them to have gospel knowledge and strong, unwavering testimonies. I want to help them gain a love for arts and cultures and nature. I want to teach them to be self-confident and kind.
I want our home to be a place where they will long to return once they have ventured out on their own.
How can I do these things, create this bond, if they are away with friends all of the time? Perhaps I am selfish. Perhaps things will be different once some of my younger kids are the oldest still at home. I don't know. What I do know is this:
I love my family. I love having my children here at home with me. I love spending time together, creating happy memories. All I can do is hope that, once they have left the nest, they will see the value in my possessiveness. When it comes their time to go, I hope they will fly away with confidence and knowledge and kind hearts. I hope they will come to their father and I for advice and encouragement and laughter and love.
In the here and now I hope they don't resent me too much for trying to keep them around as much as possible while I can.
And in the future I hope that they will all choose to remain close to our family while doing the same for their own kids.