Sleeping bag: check.
Proud-but-also-kind-of-sad-mama: also check.
Somehow I'm still in denial that my firstborn is 8.
When the birthday girl's mom (a close friend of mine) invited me to stick around and hang out for the evening, I was super excited--girls' night, anyone? BUT I wasn't sure if Anna would be cool with that, and I had every intention of respecting her wishes. (I would have died if my mom tried to pull that at one of my friends' parties. Just sayin'.) But she cheerfully announced to me in the car on the way over that she hoped I'd stay, so she could spend time with me.
I've found that one of parenting's greatest joys is simply enjoying the sweet souls that are my children. Yet I also feel a huge weight of responsibility, as I know I'll play a major role in shaping my daughter into the woman she'll become. Gulp. How I treat my husband, what I value, the way I spend my time (and money) and what topics make it into my conversations, she is watching. Taking cues, from her front row seat to motherhood-and-marriage, Brianna-style.
It is overwhelming, to say the least. I need to teach and instruct, but I also need to model.
How do I handle life when it doesn't go my way? Am I joyful, happy, loving, chaste, and faithful by default? Do I extoll the proper characteristics of beauty, while rejecting the shallow?
My kids are all pretty "young" for their respective ages, blissfully naive about a good many things. (But one of the many perks of homeschooling.) Innocence is a precious gift from God, and as it slowly, gently gives way to experience and worldly-wise-ness, I want to be a nurturing source of truth and light for my children. Even though I'm far from perfect--any of my kids can attest to that--I want to at least be somewhat of an example of what a virtuous, Godly wife and mother looks like.
In other words, it seems important--no, critical--to impart and reflect what life is actually about--so that my daughter isn't looking to Cosmo for the answers, or to serial dead-end relationships for her value and self-worth. Those things are all counterfeit, but she won't recognize them as such unless she's learned and seen what the real truth is.
Obviously, I share this with a humble, cautious heart because my daughter is a mere 8 years old. I don't have in-the-trenches experience with raising girls to adulthood and I can't say, "This is what worked for me." (Or, conversely, "This is what didn't.") I have hopes and dreams for my girl but I'm learning as I go. And, my daughter will have choices to make as she grows, choices that I cannot make for her. She will need to listen to her own conscience, and forge her own path, and heed the still, small voice in her heart that is God's. So I know that I am not ultimately in control of her future. I do.
But, I also think God will hold me accountable for what I've done to properly form her conscience in the early years, and for the ways I've modeled holiness and motherhood and vocation in general. One of life's tallest orders, but also one of life's most amazing and miraculous joys.