Today is Penny's 4th birthday. Last night I put her to bed as a 3 year old and this morning, bright and early, she came into my room in her Lightning McQueen jammies as a 4 year old. This kind of milestone creates a true sense of wonder for me as a parent. When you spend every day with a little person, sometimes you can't see the subtle nuance of change. You're too close. But when something as concrete as a birthday comes along, one cannot deny that winds of change are blowing. I love it and I grieve it. "Nostalgia meets joy" is probably the theme of my experience as a mother. I would never want to hold my children back or stunt them in any way. So their milestones are met with cheering and enthusiasm. But in the cheering section of the audience of their lives, I can't help but feel a bit of loss in the midst of all the clapping. I love them in every stage. And acknowledging that the little years are receding in the rear view mirror, I can't help but let out a few sniffles.
This fall, Penny will go from going to preschool 2 mornings a week to every morning. And this week of summer has been designated my "self-care week" where Penny is in preschool every morning and Macy is at theater camp every day. It's helpful to have a bit of a break when it's all kids all the time. So this week is giving me a preview of what it'll be like to have Penny at school every day in September. The glorious thing for all of us is that she's doing really well. It has been easy to drop her off and she's having a great time, even with a different teacher, even after having been out of school for a few weeks, even going every day. The level of growth and development represented by this ease is a big deal and I couldn't be more relieved or proud.
I wrote a post last year about having Penny's development assessed and the very challenging process that was for me as her mother. To remove my buffer of protection and have her evaluated by strangers who put her on a bell curve was frightening. And though those concerns were valid and continue to be explored, Penny has grown so much. And it's been such a privilege and a joy to watch that gift unfold.
The word "gift" is an accurate assessment of what Penny has been to our family. As many of my readers know, we had a traumatic family shift with her birth. My husband got severe post-partum depression and we came quite unraveled. Had we not gone through that trial-by-fire process, we would not be the lovers, communicators and boundary-setters that we are today. As Tim and I have grown individually and as a couple, our children have and will continue to benefit from our person growth. Had we not been given the gift both of Penny's birth and her actual personhood that we've treasured every day since, I can't imagine we'd be the people we've become. This growth was bloody and hard-earned and so deeply painful. We fought for our health and our togetherness as a family with everything we had. Miraculously, through that effort and because of the immense support of our friends and family, we are here today - better, stronger, happy.
This summer has been a great touch-point as we've been able to create patterns and rhythms we anxiously awaited when our kids were younger. The dream of what family life could look like without babies was such an important thing to hold onto, especially for my husband. Now, we don't need diapers or naps or special food or cups or anything, really, to have a good day with our kids. Of course, there are tools we use at home that make life easier, but we don't need them to function anymore. We had so many crutches when we were struggling with the day-to-day life of being a family of 4 that we just don't need anymore. And if our first family bowling night was any indication of what was to come, our first family vacation really was something to celebrate.
A few weeks ago, Tim and I took the kids to Seattle and Victoria, BC. We were gone for 6 days. There were some downs (urgent care visit in Canada, my car overheating an hour away the day we were leaving) along with the ups (the kids got along well, we actually had fun, we walked a ton and saw a lot). But we came home happy, still in love with each other, and exhausted. If that isn't a family vacation victory, I don't know what is!
It's such a joy to have arrived where we are and to take today to celebrate that growth. The growth of Penny from zero to 4 and the growth of our family that has kept pace with her. What a joy. What a gift. Thanks be to God.