My last child is now a reader. The Bob Books and board books are packed away, the three letter words, once haltingly sounded out, are a thing of the past. She's reaching for the big stuff now. And I feel like something in me has died.
Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic. But I absolutely love teaching my children to read. I've eagerly taught all four, spending hours curled up on the couch with little minds ready to be molded. And now I'm done.
I recently spoke of this with an admired homeschool mentor, and she agreed: it's like a loss. We teach our children, they learn it, and they move on. Another phase done, another goal reached. It's fine when a couple of other kids are in the queue waiting their turn for the "sat, bat, cat" chant, but what about that moment when the last one slips through? We're so eager to guide them forward, that we don't realize the flip-side of achievement: once they've learned it, they no longer need their mama in quite the same way.
This morning, as with most mornings, it took a great deal of guidance for me to get my Little Miss Avery Kate through her routine. Sitting down for an entire meal is tricky. Brushing teeth is not high on her priority list. Taking a bath usually sounds like a terrible idea. (Until she gets in. Then coming out sounds like a terrible idea.) So I prompted and prodded her through this and that. She finally huffed in frustration, "Why do you and Daddy always have to tell me what do do?"
It was a fair question. She wasn't being belligerent. She really wanted to know. And so I explained, with yesterday's sermon fresh on my heart: "Well, Sweetie, it's our job. Our job is to teach you to love Jesus and to love people." I was about to explain what this had to do with obeying Mommy and Daddy when she countered, "I already love Jesus, and I love everybody!" And off she dashed to play with her dollies.
I smirked over the irony. It's one thing to shout it out on a childish whim. But it's a completely different matter to live it. And an even greater sacrifice to live it daily.
So maybe my last pixie knows how to read. Maybe I'm done with that phase, closing yet another chapter. But my job? Oh, no. It's not done. Perhaps my job description has changed a bit, but the overriding life goal is the same. These children are still learning, as are their parents. They are learning to love Jesus and to love people every day. These are not skills that, once acquired, are complete. They are ongoing. Daily we submit, in love, and proclaim the words of Isaiah, "I belong to the Lord." And our job, our mission, is to display that truth in word and deed, no matter how old the kids are or how many goals they've attained.
I'll admit that I still feel a sense of loss. But I know that this "ending" only signals a new beginning. This is still a time to faithfully walk forward, to rejoice over the growth, and to use that knowledge to live in the awesome, everlasting truth of the gospel.
Now is the time to live. Now is the time to love.