A few nights ago we took a family walk at sunset. We've done this for years – on nights we get dinner cleaned up in time – but it's been a while. When the kids were small it was every night. Now it's a treat.
I'm not sure why we broke the habit… perhaps we've been too busy. Or perhaps we'd just forgotten.
As I hung back taking pictures, I watched my family walk down the road ahead of me. And I felt how quickly these years have unfurled since the days when a walk before bed was the only way to guarantee sleep.
Since run-run-jump; since first bikes; since baby slings.
Some days I think we're turning pages in childhood before I've had a chance to read the words. "Slow down," I whisper. Slow down… But they can't.
I ran to catch up.
For all of its struggles, these years are swift. This chapter of life - so hard, so full - will end before I am ready. Of that I am certain. And looking back on the past fourteen years of parenting, each year has passed in an instant. Some easier, some blurred from lost sleep, but all swift. Our life has unfolded in rapid seasons as the years flutter past and the decades unfurl behind us. They show no sign of stopping.
And as we walked I realized: only four more years until Sage is grown.
Four more years.
Four more summers for swimming in the creek; four more autumn road trips. Four more snow forts in the yard; four more springs, drinking maple straight from the tap.
Just four. And then childhood will close and a new chapter will begin. (His sister, of course, is just four years behind, so then the cycle for us begins once more.)
Bearing witness to their unfolding is an honor – watching my children open into their gifts. It's just the brevity of it all that is caught in my throat.
The "Four Year Realization" has lead our family into conversations we've never had before, as we ask ourselves what we want most from the next four years. What we most want now – no stalling, no distractions. As we ask Sage: what do you want from childhood? What must you do before you're grown?
As we acknowledge – perhaps for the first time ever – that there is no time to lose.
And so we're digging in and talking, dreaming, planning. We're asking ourselves and each other – what do we desire now? Is it farm animals or travel? Adventure or projects? What is our family mission for the next four years?
What do we want to share with our kids while they are kids? It's time to decide.
I am so grateful for these questions and the presence that they cultivate.
And while our answers aren't clear yet, we're letting the storyline form as we prioritize being together and doing the things we've been putting off. Like a walk after dinner as the sun slips behind the hills. We're doing it now, while we still can.
And we're asking ourselves, "What do we most want from these fleeting days?"
Because, as it turns out, our lives have always been but a string of fleeting days. It's just at first we failed to notice.