November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:13 PM
I forget who warned me not to blink. But I now realize it was someone who knew what he was talking about. How I wish I had heeded his caution. But, alas, I didn’t.
In the millisecond it takes an eyelid to flutter shut and re-open, the unexpected occurred. A little life fresh from heaven became a college freshman.
It happened six years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. The emotions of that unforgettable day are deeply engraved in my heart. For four hours I drove home to Chicago from Holland, Mich., and wiped tears from my eyes.
After depositing my firstborn daughter on the steps of her college dormitory, I began making withdrawal after withdrawal from a memory bank I’d opened 18 years before. I could have sworn it was only the year before I was driving my bright-eyed, black-haired baby girl home from the hospital. I can still see her snuggled in her car seat next to my wife. Yep, my eyes were leaking that day, too. Blink.
Where did those six years go? Before I knew it, I was chauffeuring Kristin to her first day of first grade. Blink.
I’m absolutely positive that only a week passed before I was toting that little third-grader to Bible camp for her first taste of life away from home. Blink. And wasn’t it only yesterday when I drove her to the DMV on her 16th birthday to get her long-awaited driver’s license? Blink.
Memories flooded my mind as I blinked back tears that filled my eyes. Drives to the doctor. Drives to Nana’s house. Drives to church, soccer games and the mall. And there I was, once again, on the road behind the wheel. But this time was different. A certain someone wasn’t in her seat. I had left her in a strange room two states away.
Okay, I’ll admit it. It wasn’t the first time I got a lump in my throat and had to reach for the Kleenex box. That happened plenty of times when my “baby” began to exercise small steps of independence. Her first babysitting job. Her first date. Her first job at camp that took her away from home all summer.
But somehow that first year at college was the hardest by far.
My goodness. That long drive home without Kristin in the car caused me to reflect on more than memories. I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed more regrets than I wished. Why had I insisted on spending so much time at the office when I could have been home with her and her sisters? Why had I watched baseball on TV instead of playing catch in the backyard? Why hadn’t I been more willing to spend time on the floor playing instead of sitting in my easy chair reading Time magazine?
Parenting is tough business. It calls for the balance and courage of a tightrope walker in a circus between blinks. In my opinion, it is the most difficult and rewarding occupation there is. It is the source of intense pain and incredible joy. And sadly, it seems we learn what it takes to be effective much too late in the process.
When opportunities are made available whereby parents can get a running start at doing it right, we should seize them with gratitude. One such opportunity is the Mercer Island Mothers of Preschoolers club which begins a new year of offerings this month.
M.O.P.S. is an interdenominational program for women with young children that currently meets at Mercer Island Covenant Church on the first and third Fridays of the month. Geared to encourage young moms in their exhausting task of parenting, M.O.P.S. features the advice of veteran mothers who have “been there and done that.”
Topics discussed include maintaining a healthy marriage after babies, finding effective ways to discipline and creating family traditions around the holidays. Creative programming is offered for infants, toddlers and preschoolers while the mothers listen to lectures, interact with each other and enjoy crafts and refreshments.
For more information, call the local M.O.P.S. coordinator, Tanya Avilez, at (206) 275-0756.
Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.