Merci walked by my office one day when my kids were very young. She was a striking woman. Tall - and elegant - and very wise. Not sure what prompted it, but for some reason, she stopped in my doorway and looked me in the eye. "..You're going to look back on these years as the best years of your life."
I could have honestly turned around in my chair to see if she was actually talking to someone else. Me? At that moment, I must have smiled back at her - and nodded my head in agreement. In my mind, I was definitely thinking - "WHAT??? easy for you to say!"
Actually....it was easy for her to say. She knew exactly what she was talking about. Merci and Bernie - at that point in their lives - had raised five children together. She was right in the middle of a season of life I'm just beginning.
When I looked in the mirror that day, I saw a full time working mom of two young girls -- trying to keep -what felt like an overwhelming amount of responsibility -- balanced. My husband. My girls. My home. My job. Myself. It was tough trying to give everybody and everything - the time, care and attention they all deserved and needed from me. In those years, I was doing the best I could - but it was really difficult.
But, my "best years?" -- surely not! Those days had to be ahead of me. When the kids were older. When the demands were easier. When my life was more together.
The day "Miss P" poured out those words of wisdom on me, I hadn't experienced a full night's sleep in eight years! My year old, Taylor, was probably fighting another ear infection. My eight year old, Kate, may have called out in the night because she needed help "turning her pillow over." A date night with my husband was a foreign concept. My laundry was likely piled up in the mud room, the dishwasher really needed to be emptied, bills probably needed to be paid -- and beyond a doubt -- I badly needed to put in an hour on the treadmill.
My best days? I could only see demanding days.
I always disliked the phrase "empty nest" - it seems ridiculous to compare women of my age -to a bird! It's "life after the kids are gone" for me. No need for the bird comparison.
Scott and I are wrapping up our very first week long camping trip with no kids. It's been entirely different. But also pretty wonderful. We've read six books between us this week. (I HIGHLY recommend "The Hunger Games" p.s.) We've sat quietly by a fire several nights. Gone to bed when we were ready. Picked the restaurants where we would eat. Went on walks when we wanted. Watched some amazing sunsets together. You get the picture. We've had a wonderful week. Different....yes. But, still pretty wonderful.
But, I do understand now what Merci meant. Those early family days fly by with incredible speed. Yes, it's hard. The demands are high and your energy is often depleted, but it's irreplaceable time when your kids are young. When they still have a passie and enjoy a bedtime story. But, it's also irreplaceable when they're a little older - and it becomes proms and softball games. And even now....when it's become weddings and Christmas breaks.
Yep. I know what "Miss P" meant, but maybe she wasn't entirely right.
As a matter of encouragement to myself and friends of a similar age, I certainly hope that my "life after the kids are gone" can also be wonderful, valuable and useful years. Whatever season of life I find myself -I want to continue to find the present season to be the best years of my life.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished..." Philippians 1:6.
I think God still has a few things planned for me yet.
Oh....and our solo week long camping trip? The kids started arriving on Day 5 - and we're finishing up the maiden voyage of camping "with no kids" - with a few more kids than we started with....and that's fine too -- just different. (Smile)