Fall used to be my favorite.
For kids, and for moms, I think Autumn is the unofficial new year. I used to relish in buying fresh notebooks full of crisp pages, sharp pencils and color crayons with perfect points. Picking out my outfit for the first day of school was a big deal. My sister and I weren’t allowed to wear our new clothes until school began and the anticipation killed us all August long. When my own children were little, even when my oldest was in preschool, I carried on the tradition of buying new supplies, new tennis shoes, fresh pencils and paper and crayons. I loved inviting them into my own beginning of the school year traditions and reliving all those memories of my own childhood as the weather cooled and leaves began to turn.
In recent years though, I’ve felt like Autumn and particularly “back to school” has been daunting, marking time, ticking off one more season of life as I know it with my babies at home. My oldest only has two more Autumns with me at home before she takes off into the world and heads to college and at the end of each summer, I mourn its passing and find myself grasping for more minutes with each of my kids.
What all our grandmothers told us is true: Babies don’t keep and when we blink, they are grown.
This Fall? A surprise awaits our family too. A baby, long prayed for, and completely unexpected will join our crew, and the traditions of welcoming Autumn will begin all over for another 18 years. I’ve realized as I prepare for this child, that my enjoyment of his little years, the way I engage them and invest in them, will have a profound impact on how I embrace the season before he leaves home someday. And in anticipation of welcoming him, I’m embracing the season of preparing my oldest to launch into the world with greater joy and intention… perhaps because it all feels so precious and so very sacred to imagine seasons colliding, to picture holding a newborn and encouraging calculus.
Whatever season of parenting you are in as the weather outside begins to turn, here are three principles for embracing where you find yourself and how to look forward with joy:
1. Pay attention to the little things.
When you feel overwhelmed by lists and schedules and all.the.things. take a minute to look into your children’s eyes. Notice the dimples on the backs of their hands, the shade of lipgloss they love at thirteen, the squeaky voice of your boy before it drops an octave. Ask questions. Comb hair and paint fingernails. Eat a cracker or two beside them while your phone is tucked far away. Drink it in. Offer up thanksgiving for these little graces that are able to be unwrapped every day and that will leave you with a lifetime of memories and connection.
2. Pray Unceasingly.
When you fear, when you doubt, when you are questioning, when you are grateful, when you are full of peace, when you are dumbfounded by the amazing, when you experience wonder along side your children…. never neglect to pray life into their souls. Your prayers shape, protect, initiate peace, open doors and close others, and literally impact the hearts of your children for eternity. When you pray for them, you are equipping them with the host of heaven, you are resting in the care of God for them and building into their lives the reality and presence of a Sabbath world that transcends all we can see or understand. When your children are grown, the privilege of this will not stop, but the foundation it has laid in their lives and in your heart will bring you incredible joy.
Do not be content to simply live life alongside your children, but rather, engage with them! What matters to the heart of your three year old? What do they love? What do they want to play? Join them! Share in their delight! What about your teenager? What things break their heart? Where do they need your friendship and sympathy? Talk. Become a part of what matters to your child. Don’t be afraid to look like a fool. Wear your swimsuit and get in the water. Enter the relay. Make goofy faces. Snuggle and tickle and laugh often. Let your joy and delight in your children be the visible sign of God’s great love and delight in them as well. Bear His image to them as you love big and love well.
I pray that as you enter a new season, these principles can equip you to find great peace and contentment in the season of parenting you are in. May we embrace our stewardship of these dear lives with joy together,