Last week I read a beautiful and heartfelt reflection by a sweet friend about donating a treasured toy too early. She shared about special memories of her children with the toy and memories she felt were lost by giving it away. It made me think about just how fast time is going by with all the kids, even the littlest one. We are going through the days and I know I'm just not always fully present with the kids. I know they need individual attention, I know they need help in their sibling relationships, I know they need guidance with their schoolwork, and time for me to just read to them or do a puzzle or play a game. And prayer most of all, they need that example from me.
There is always something there to remind me...that the time is fleeting. It might be a special toy they no longer play with, a baby outfit stained that can't be passed on, or just some little item that brings tangible memories that the sun will one day set on these childhoods. Am I treasuring these days? Am I writing down their sweet words on paper and in my heart? Am I smiling with them, playing with them, praying with them? Or am I just pushing them away and remembering the negative parts of this crazy life with young children?
Katherine turned a month old last week on the 19th, and I think she wore this little flowered sleeper for the last time on the following day. This outfit was one of the few things I bought her for Christmas. It was a big step for me to feel comfortable buying something for her, and I remember choosing PJs and other Christmas goodies for the kids online and taking incredible effort to actually purchase something for the new baby. I was starting to reach the point of having a real hope that we would meet her. Although I haven't experienced loss in a profound way, the loss of our miscarried babies and the loss of normal pregnancy and birth experiences gives me a guarded attitude towards my pregnancies. I tend to dwell on the "what-ifs" and focus on all those things that could go wrong and could prevent me from meeting my baby on this side of Heaven. So the purchase of those few Christmas items were a real symbol of hope for my heart, and seeing her in the outfit brings me great joy.
Each week I've squeezed her into this little sleeper, just hoping that she would be able to straighten her legs and that her little feet would rest softly in the ladybug footies! I gave up trying to put the matching cap on with it, since our little princess is not a fan of baby hats. This was the first outfit she wore in the hospital, and so along with being a symbol of hope, it is also a reminder of the bright and flower-filled newborn days. Now I'm having to say goodbye to those days. She is growing out of a few of the newborn things, and it's sad to fold them up, not knowing whether or not we will have another child to wear them one day. Katie turned five weeks old on Wednesday and is awake more and more, starting to look at us with wide eyes and giving some little grins here and there. I feel like I'm going to blink and she will be walking!
What hit me the most about my friend's story, and even my own story here tonight, is that it's not really about the toy or the outfit. It's about treasuring the memories, but realizing that we're living in the present. I have to take advantage of each new day as a new opportunity for memories with my children. Each moment is a new opportunity to step out of myself and put someone else's needs before my own. Instead of living in some kind of wistful nostalgia, both about their childhoods and just about the passing of time in general, I can focus on today and plan for tomorrow in hope and confidence.
Because tomorrow she will smile at me. Next month she will coo, this fall she will crawl, and in another year she will be toddling around. And I will enjoy each of those milestones, no matter how much I dread their coming and having to say goodbye to the past. Today is the day to love each step of the journey with these children. Today is the opportunity to be grateful for their lives and my own life with them. Today is the day to make my heart and countenance fun and flowery like that little sleeper, giving my children colorful and joyful days to remember forever.