A few nights ago, I was watching a humorous documentary on running. One of the subjects was a new mom who was trying to squeeze in training runs between her baby’s nap times, diaper changes, and crying fits. I couldn’t help giggling when I saw her shirt plastered with baby food and her hair sticking up in every direction as she gave a bleary-eyed interview.

“I can relate to that!” I said.

And then I realized that actually, I can’t… at least not in my current life. I used to be ankle-deep in picture books and lullabies and sippy cups and the frustration of how utterly impossible it was to do something as simple as a quick jog around the neighborhood alone. But somewhere along that journey of sleepless nights and potty training and having tiny people who were utterly dependent on me… they grew up a bit. They’re quite self-sufficient these days. They make their own breakfasts and lunches; they do chores around the house and clean up their own messes; they read themselves to sleep instead of asking me to “pwease tell a stowy.”

I’m not gonna lie… it’s pretty nice. Going places with them is so much easier now. (Have you read about our disastrous trip to Chili’s from several years ago? I don’t want to repeat that.) I almost never have to get up in the middle of the night for either of them. I can take them to the pool or the lake and relax with a good book instead of worrying that they’re going to drown themselves. Big kids come with lots of perks.

But then again, I miss the sweetness of a warm, snuggly baby. I miss the hilarious inquisitiveness of a toddler. I miss the triumph of a kindergartner learning to read. It’s not that they don’t need me AT ALL anymore, but they don’t seem to need me quite so much, and definitely not in the same ways, as they used to.

It’s all part of a long, slow process of letting them go. My role has to morph over time to fit their stages and needs. They still need me to help them make choices about friends and faith and to understand that neck tattoos are a bad idea. But they don’t need me to suction their noses or pull globs of play-dough out of their ears. They don’t ask me to pray for their stuffed animals anymore.

They need me less and less as they grow older, and that’s right and good. But it’s also a little sad.

And then, as I was in the middle of writing this, my daughter came in from swimming and showed me that her goggles were all tangled up in her mess of curly, chlorinated hair. It’s nice to know I’m still needed now and then.

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