Engagement, marriage, first car, second car, bird, first house, first child, second child, second house, third dog...we been adding since 1985. Then, the other day, our son received the college acceptance letter he's been waiting for. He's excited about it, and so are we, but the fact that life will be changing for us is now a reality. We will only be three around the dinner table.
His sister is thrilled. She loves the idea of being an only child. She's eyeing his room for where the best place to sit while applying her nail polish, filling his room with the noxious odor of teal or blue or whatever shade by Opi. He hates the smell of nail polish.
I've watched my friends go through this - in varying states of joy and tears. We want our children to grow and to thrive. We have dreams of what they'll do when they grow up. We just don't want them to go to colleges that are farther away than the local high school.
I do remember how exciting it was to go to college and loving the independence and the parties and even the classes. I was in charge of when I got up and went to bed - limited only by class schedules and homework. I want him to have that experience and he'll have a great time. He has friends going there and, knowing him, he'll make more friends and learn a lot and become a great teacher. I'm certain of it.
But it's so odd that's he's old enough to do so - that we're all of a sudden here. I find myself alternately not thinking about it and deluding myself that this "down-sizing" is temporary. He's going to get married, eventually, and have kids and then our family will grow. Kind of like the liquid in a lava lamp - bubbles that stretch, separate and rejoin in sometimes larger forms. We're in that stretching phase that will result in his forming his own bubble. We won't be the same and it feels kind of thin, somehow.
In the words of Proverbs, we've trained our child up on the way he should go, so that when he's old he will not depart from it. Our job, while not ending, is changing as he prepares to continue on that path. He'll be walking on it, but not holding our hands, or even walking within our sight. And I'm reminded that God gives us children like library books - on loan. They shape and change our lives and we are richer for it. But then they need to be returned - sent on to shape and change the lives of others. And, as with many things that God has for us, I pray that He'll give me joy about it, because at this moment, I confess that I'm a little sad.