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Like many parents whose children have reached a certain age, sometimes I get sad thinking about my family that “was”–the one that was always together, always under the same roof, always at the same dinner table. I start thinking about times past–all the Halloween costumes, the lost teeth, the new words, the new discoveries, the repeated viewing of certain movies, the retelling of the same stories, the re-reading of the same books. I think about what it meant to be actively engaged in hands-on parenting every minute of every day. And I miss it, and I think, “How can that part of my life be over already?”

But then I realize that it’s not over, and it never will be over. Because every step forward my family takes is built on a foundation of those shared experiences and shared memories, and they continue to live on even as they get rolled over into the next phase of our life. When we’re apart, we’re still connected by that common thread of all the time we spent together as one.

Next fall, it is likely that we will be flung even farther apart, but that doesn’t have to mean that we’ll be further apart, ever. The five of us share something that is unique only to us. It will always exist in the core of each of us, and it is what will give my kids the confidence to reach and grow and begin the cycle again, each with their own families in their own time.

All that precious time has not been lost. It is embedded forever in who we have become as a result. And that’s a beautiful thing.