If You Don't Stop and Look Around

I don't always quote iconic 80's movies, but today I'm remembering a particular scene in Ferris Bueller when he offered this wise advice:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

This advice seems apt right now. You see, the month of May is a bit crazy. It's crazy because the kid's school year is dying down, and by dying down I mean amping up with a dozen-or-so end-of-year celebrations ranging from final track meets, to final choir concerts, to prom, to awards ceremonies, to emails from teachers with Sign-Up Genius links to bring in something for some class party / event / thing. 

In our household, May also is a month of birthdays. We celebrate three birthdays over a span of eleven days. There's cake, then more cake, and then more cake after that. This May, specifically, marked the threshold where our youngest turned 13, so Joel and I are officially parents of all teenagers. We feel this.

To keep May hopping, I finished spring teaching, took a week's pause after finals week to prepare our house to rent it for graduation weekend (which requires cleaning the house to the point that it looks like we no longer live in it), and then started summer teaching, which runs at an accelerated pace so we can cover fifteen weeks of content in six weeks.

This, I have discovered, is just the nature of May. It moves pretty fast.

But there's today. Today has been a slow day, a heart-stopping beautiful day when the weather must be a precursor of the climate in heaven. The grass is cut and the peonies are in full bloom. The breeze carries sounds of kids playing down the street. Chores are done. There's no immediate work to attend to. 

It's peaceful and calm, slow and savored. It's a gift that I don't take for granted. Even as I write from my back porch, I linger between sentences to let my gaze wander. If I don't stop and look around, I'm going to miss it.

I don't want to miss it.

I'm trying to do the same during this season of life. Our oldest daughter graduates high school next week. Someone with younger children recently asked me how this feels. She's attending college close to home, which helps to mitigate some of the feelings that parents must feel when their child moves far away, but I still have feelings.

There's joy, of course. She's worked so hard, grown so much, and she's ready for the next step. There's surprise. I mean, people tell you that 18 years go fast, but when you actually measure the span from newborn to emerging adult with a milestone one evening where they wear a cap and gown, you realize that those people were right. It goes fast in the way that 18 years can go fast -- which is not at all, and entirely so, all at once.

Of course, the feelings wouldn't be complete without the loving concern about all the next steps and challenges: adjusting to college living, working through inevitable moments of frustration when living with a roommate in a dorm room the size of a Wheat Thin, making decisions about the future. When my thoughts wander, I find them circling over the same themes:

Have I taught her enough? Have I shared what I want her to know deep in her core about how much we love her, and how valuable she is, and how she can trust God with every single one of these steps into adulthood?

I hope so. I really hope so.

There's also sadness intermingled with such joy that it's impossible to separate one from the other. My face gets confused with all the signals from my brain and heart. My mouth smiles and my eyes cry because it's all true: this person I loved before I laid eyes on her, this baby I carried, this toddler I hoisted on my hip, this kindergartener who wore a backpack nearly the size of her body, this elementary school child who learned to read and ride a bike and master the monkey bars on the playground, this middle schooler who threatened my sanity, this high schooler who passed a driver's test, had her first fender-bender, competed in hurdles, gave presentations, took AP tests, stayed up late doing homework, and came home late after hanging out with friends, this young woman who's lived her life with some high highs alongside some inevitably low lows, is taking her first steps out the door.

So, how do I feel?

There aren't enough words. I feel it all. It's joyful and surreal. It's good, and sweet, and aching. It's a reminder that life moves fast, and that it's important to look around, to feel these feelings deeply, to let myself smile and laugh and cry.

I don't want to miss any of this.

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