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“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

-Dr. Seuss

Beginnings and endings are everywhere.

Beginnings and endings surround parents.  The moment a child enters your life, something begins while something else ends.  The overwhelming joy of pregnancy comes to a grinding halt only to open the door to emotions that words simply cannot capture.  That first cry, those first tears, that very first physical connection…all of these moments are life changing.  And yet they end to make way for something new.

The beginnings and endings are perhaps the only constant in this parenting gig.  Something always leaves us in tears, but that next something new brings joy and pride beyond compare.

And so we just keep swimming.  It’s all we can really do.

I could feel the emotions long before she uttered a sound.  As if overnight, the piercing heat that left us restless, tossing, and just a little bit cranky gave way to a cool breeze.  Suddenly the water sparkled just a little bit more, the sun felt just a little less intense, and the days passed just a little bit faster.

Time was slipping away from all of us.

Wrapped in a comforter that once seemed unnecessary and snuggled into my chest, our heartbeats seemed to align.  Together we were one again, if just for a few moments.  Her eyes half open, mine half closed, we attempted to drift off together,

A quiet sob broke our trance and opened the door to tears stored up for far too long.  I held her close as her little body began to heave.  I soothed her emotions as hiccups escaped her throat.  And then finally, she spoke…

“I don’t want to go home.  I feel happy here.  I feel confident here.  I feel safe and good here.  And our family is here.”

Tears streamed down my face as I reached for strength that I didn’t think I had.  Darkness provided a much-needed barrier so that she couldn’t see my pain.  For a few minutes, I just held her close.

“I understand how you feel.  I miss our family too.  And I feel safe here too.  And we can always come back here.  But soon we will go home to our friends and our house and the life that we love, even if we love this life too.”

“But I love it here.  I’m healthy here.  I have no asthma here.  I don’t want to leave here.”

Beginnings and endings are everywhere.

At long last our eyes met as I gently stroked her tear stained cheeks, red from the heat of emotion.

“I know exactly how you feel, sweet girl.  I felt the same way at the end of every summer when I was a kid.  Endings are hard.  Saying goodbye to something so amazing feels impossible in the moment, even if the next thing will be really great.”

With that, the floodgates opened again.  Giant, heaving tears escaped as she attempted to process my words – goodbye will happen, even if we don’t want it to.

“Let me tell you something I’ve learned along the way.  Goodbye feels final, like something wonderful is coming to an end, even if we’re not ready.  Goodbye feels overwhelming, like we can’t make it stop.  But we don’t have to say goodbye.  Instead of feeling like the fun is ending, we can start looking forward to the next time.  And until next time happens, we have millions of happy memories to make us smile along the way.”

For a moment, she was silent.  Twirling her own hair in one hand and mine in the other, her breathing finally steadied.  The sobs gave way to gentle sighs and, within moments, she was fast asleep on my chest.

In an effort to put off yet another ending, I lingered in the moment.  Holding her close and breathing in the scent of her sun-drenched skin, I replayed the moments that will get us through the long winter days.  The crabs we caught with our own two hands, the waves we jumped, the sandcastles carefully crafted, and the seashells we collected…all of these small moments will feel enormous when we need them.  All of them will usher us into the next beginning.

But until then, we will have to face the ending.  With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, we will have to say goodbye to the summer that brought us peace, togetherness, and happiness.

Until then, we will have to embrace new beginnings and hold our memories close to our hearts.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

One day our hearthome and our physical home will be one and the same.

But until that day, we will celebrate the beginnings and endings that make us who we are – one little family of four with four exceptionally big hearts.

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