When my mom used to utter the words, “They grow up so fast,” she would say it with tears in her eyes. Now it is my turn, and I have learned to say it with tears in my eyes and big ache in my heart. No one told me about the big heartache. I had to figure that out when I became a parent, when realized how fast they do grow up. My ten-year old is finishing up fourth grade and in about ten days, he will be “almost” a fifth grader. When I dropped him off this morning, I watched him climb out of the car and walk away with confidence and for the first time, it finally hit him how grown up he really was. He wasn’t that scrawny and shy fourth grader that I dropped off at his new intermediate school in September. He was taller (two inches shorter than I am – to be exact), his shoulders were wider, and his confidence level is something to be admired.
A part of us, as parents, wants to believe that they stay “little” forever. I remember the first time I got one of those “they grow up so fast” moments. That ten-year old had just turned three, was all potty trained, and graduated from the toddler room to the preschool room at his daycare. I remember him “reminding” me to pick up his blanket and pillow, because “big kids don’t nap, Mommy” is what he told me. I dropped him off in the “big kids” room and went to pick up his blanket and pillow. By the time I got back to my car, I was in tears and balling like a baby. For the first time, I realized that bundle of joy that I brought home from the hospital three years prior was growing up (whether I liked it or not) and before I would know it, he would be an adult, and that really scared me. It still scares me and now, I am not having one of those “they grow up so fast” moments, because those moments are turning into “all grown up” moments.
Like all parents, I cannot and do not want to believe that my kids are growing and changing. And yes, they do grow up fast. They grow, they change and they mature. As much as it scares me, they will grow up and they will turn out just fine, and yes, I will never stop being so darn teary eyed at every milestone in their lives. That is what a mother does. Now, I am not saying that there are days I don’t wish that they were older because things would be easier me, especially those days when I am ready to pull my hair out. There are days when I wish for quiet mornings or for a full night of sleep, but then I realize that those things are not as special as they are. There is a Trace Akins song that brings me tears but reminds of why I am here. It is called “Then They Do”.
A few days ago, my ten year old found out that his best friend was moving and I could tell that he was really hurting despite the fact that he was trying to hide it. I told him that I knew he was sad but that life is all about changes and moving on. Things never stay the same and we have to learn to move forward regardless of how difficult or painful it can be.
I recently found out in the last day or two that another dear friend of mine had recently lost her mother in late February. She had also lost her father in November. She lives in another state and we not been in contact since about October because my life had gotten busy in recent months. My friend and I used to live in the same city but our contact had slowed down since I moved away from Pennsylvania two years ago. My friend did not tell me of her mother’s passing (or her father’s – their deaths happened only four months apart) because as many of who have experienced death know, it is surreal and takes a long time (sometimes many months or years) to fully grasp what has happened.
My friend’s mother lived her life with grace, confidence and humility. In 1944, she and other members of her family were deported to a Nazi death camp in Poland. All but she and her sister-in-live were killed. In 1945, her camp was liberated and within days of that liberation, she sought work and a new life in Germany. In 1946, she met an American solider who was working for the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Hanover on refugee resettlement. They married in 1947 and moved Switzerland where her husband graduated from medical school. They eventually settled in Wallingford, CT where her husband practiced medicine and they had three daughters. She was the kind of woman who lived her life with pure happiness and she always shared her happiness with those around her. Even though she was a “survivor,” she never wanted to be remembered that way. In the 1990s, she located many of her U.S. Army liberators and personally thanked them. She and her husband moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to her daughters in 2005.
My friend’s mother was someone who made me feel welcome after I moved to PA in 2003, a state where I had no family. She always made my son and I feel like part of her family. She was warm, kind, loving and generous and she will be missed dearly. I wanted to share her story because she was always good to me and also because her story is one of humility. One of my favorite quotes is by James M. Barrie. “Life is a long lesson in humility,” and my friend’s mom was a woman of true humility.
What it all means
Humility is a part of living life and it isn’t about our chaotic and busy lives. It is the lesson learned and the road travelled. It is all the in the stuff in the middle of everything that comprises of our lives – who are we are, who we become, and why. Humility is how and why we live our lives and the rest is what change is about – memories, stories, living and dying. Humility is why we are remembered and mourned after we are gone.