This summer it became apparent that Max has moved swiftly into the realm of growing up with one foot firmly in childhood and the other reaching for adulthood.
It shook me.
Not because I wasn’t prepared for it or I don’t want it to happen (though each of those play a very small part,) but because I want it to happen right. I always felt guilty, traitorous, offensive even when I desired to grow up. The first time I didn’t go up for the children’s sermon in church? Lord help us! I want to let our children ripen on their own and welcome the changes with open arms to them even if it means I mourn the loss in private.
I don’t feel prepared for this shift, but when are you ever really ready for change? When can you know, without a DOUBT, what you are doing while raising children?
It’s our permanent home, this Neverland and so we press on, doing our very best. We screw up and they will, too. And, God willing, if they have children they will use some of our strategies and develop some of their own to navigate their own safe passage through this wild land. We pray for grace and hold our breaths and mostly just close our eyes and leap.
This section of the journey with Max, I’m opting for eyes wide open. I don’t want to miss a second of his growing muscles, his daring, his responsibility. The boyhood – it’s not over yet! – has been fun but this changing? Well, here is where we will see it all play out.
This summer it meant splitting wood (I DID close my eyes for that part because I didn’t fancy watching the removal of a finger. It never happened.) and building fires. It meant taking hard criticism from heroes and keeping his chin up. It meant carrying his sister through the swampy meadow and acting as the structural engineer for their dam project down on the sand bar. (When other, littler kids tore up their hard work, he stood watching from the fence, hands on hips. He came back up and let out a sigh. “We’re going to have to start all over again.” Then, after a little while, “Do you think next time I should just go down there and say, ‘Hey! My name’s Max! Do you want to play with us and see what we’ve been doing?'” ) It meant rowing boats and paddling canoes. There was even jumping off the canoe and the hard scramble back inside. It meant baiting his own hook, removing hooks and gutting fish. It meant cooking on his own and the pride that comes from making something to eat for more than yourself. It meant giving large portions of his time and energy to helping and playing with his siblings AND the self-knowledge to seek out solitary time, too. It meant big questions about God and sure movements towards holiness. It meant endless pondering about what his first “real” job should be. It meant the gift of his very first rifle and the bruise on his shoulder that proved he shot it. It meant strong opinions in clothes and toys and books and food and that was good.
Sometimes it meant hot, frustrated tears and shuddering breaths because it is a stretch, after all, and that’s hard.
Once the stretching is through, though, I hope he only has the vaguest memories of it. And I pray that he continues to reach and grasp ever higher for the next summit, the next challenge, the next call. We’ll help all we can until he enters his own Neverland.