Taking a seat is a privilege

It’s Sunday evening. We just finished wiping up the last of the crumbs from strawberry cake, once decorated with KC Royals lettering. New packages of an 800-piece Lego set are spread out on the living room floor. Three sweet kids are chattering, with just a tinge of sugar-induced volume.

Earlier we sang “Happy Birthday” as 10 candles flickered, family gathered around—the same family who had gathered 10 years ago in a hospital room to welcome our 6 pound, 1 ounce firstborn—a sweet daughter.

The passage of time is a contradiction. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe how fast time has gone. Before giving birth, I remember older mothers warning me of the fleeting nature of childhood. They were right. I can close my eyes and recall details of her birth day, as if 10 years haven’t flown by. I can remember the happy, delighted tear pricks as she was first placed in my arms. I can remember holding her close, not wanting to share.

On the other hand, 10 years past seems right. She’s done so many things leading to this point. She learned to smile, learned to laugh. She learned to crawl, learned to walk. She learned to babble, learned to talk. Soon she went to school and learned there, too.

Now she’s in upper elementary. She devours books. She loves art. She helps her dad build things. She enjoys Royals baseball. And Legos. She can do back handsprings and swim lengths of the swimming pool.

Yes, 10 years old is right. It is also good.

I used to struggle with the passage of time in regard to my kids. I held tightly, first to babyhood, then toddlerhood. I fought the idea of starting school. But holding on tightly didn’t change the passage of time. My kids kept adding additional years with each passing birthday, no matter how much I held on.

But one year it hit me. My kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to. They are supposed to grow up. They are supposed to age. They are supposed to mature.

And while the idea of life moving in warp-speed still sometimes catches my heart and steals my breath, I have learned to see that with each passing year, my kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to. They are growing, aging and maturing.

And what a privilege it is to have a front-row seat!

I’ve been able to laugh and cry with, applaud, cheer and champion them in every facet of life so far. And that won’t stop at age 10. It actually doesn’t even stop with my kids.

I don’t need to be a parent to laugh and cry with, applaud, cheer and champion those around me.

I can applaud my husband as he continually grows in his carpentry skills.

I can champion both my sisters as they flourish in medical careers they worked hard for.

I can sit in the audience as my mom shines in her role as a music educator.

I can celebrate with my dad as he enters a new phase of life in retirement.

I can cheer on my in-laws and extended family, too. My heart swells just thinking about all the wonderful opportunity.

I can champion my track athletes as they work to improve their long jump and triple-jump skills. I can compare my now-seniors with where they started as seventh graders and celebrate their vast improvement. I have watched it all from the sidelines, and that’s a great vantage spot. I can tell them how fun they are, and how much I enjoy them.

I can encourage my co-workers. I can cry with friends who mourn. I can laugh with friends who celebrate. And just maybe we can do a little of both at the same time.

I can smile at strangers. I can say hello to people on the street. I can meet a gaze and shake a hand. I can ask questions and listen to answers.

Because really, it’s not just my kids who are supposed to grow up. I am too. Time keeps passing for me as well, and aging is normal. I’m also supposed to mature.

And in this whole process, I want to keep laughing and crying, applauding, cheering and championing. I don’t do these things perfectly, but I want to keep getting better. I want to take time to experience a deeper sense of humanity outside myself. I want to encourage and build others up.

The passage of time marks the human experience. No one is exempt. The clock ticking off seconds is proof. So let’s take time to move beyond our own walls and laugh, cry, applaud, cheer and champion. In doing so, we’ll take a seat in another’s audience. And I’m sure we’ll find that seat to be a privilege.

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.