Mamas, “Later” Comes Sooner Than You Think

The time had come.

I delayed the inevitable as long as I could. But as I looked around my then-11-year-old daughter’s room, I was faced with a crushing reality. It’s childish contents were no longer a reflection of the emerging woman who was occupying its princess pink walls.

From the time we bought her first Fisher Price dollhouse at age two, Molly was completely mezmerized. Over the years, her room’s perimeter had become lined with an elaborate labyrinth of dollhouses of varying shapes and sizes. Scraps of fabric, empty Kleenex boxes and old candy wrappers were among the unlikely treasures that she collected and repurposed into dollhouse decor.

Each miniature doll had a name and a carefully developed personality, including a ‘Mom’ who often possessed superhuman capabilities. “She has 13 children,” Molly would say. “She’s the school principal and a fashion designer.” And she pays the mortgage to Barbie’s Dream House to boot? No pressure there.

It was a sweet and innocent time. And I didn’t want it to end. Yet, on a Saturday afternoon, I accepted reality. And I found myself, side-by-side with my daughter, slowly disassembling her childhood. Together, we giggled as we made unexpected discoveries of lost Polly Pocket clothes, funny drawings, old diaries and a pair of much-loved sequined princess slippers that had long ago lost their regal luster.

At the same time, I was filled with an overwhelming wave of sadness and regret. Cries of “Play with me!” echoed in my mind. I cringed as I considered how many times I didn’t. Consumed with daily demands and exhaustion, I always thought there would be time — later.

Later comes sooner than we think — and without warning.

The future doesn’t tap us on the shoulder and gently whisper, “Your little girl is growing up. This stage isn’t going to last much longer.” No. Later simply shows up one day, unannounced and with an in-your-face pronouncement:  “Yuck, mom! Why did you buy me a pink shirt?! I don’t wear pink anymore! That’s so babyish.”

These sudden endings crystallize the truly fleeting nature of the time with our children.

Busy days pass without notice — and turn into months and years. We can’t freeze time. Kids grow up. Change is a part of life. What can keep me up at night is what I’ve missed along the way.

I spent too many years consumed by “shoulds” and “ought tos” — driven by a need to please, do and go. I can tell you this: Overcommitment is the enemy of relationship. A frenzied pace doesn’t allow for unhurried moments with children or the ability to be fully present — physically and mentally — with our children. We desperately need God’s leading as we raise and guide our children. Constant chaos drowns out the silence needed to hear His voice.

My doll maven is now 18 years old. And if I could give one message to the mother of a fairy princess, it would be this: Slow down. Whatever you think is so important, more often than not, it can wait. Your princess won’t.

Yes, deep down, she’ll always be a princess — even if she no longer dresses like one. But “poof!” — before you know it — the tutu will be tucked away.  And the dollhouses will be abandoned and forced to look for new tenants.

We’re wise to enjoy the magic while it lasts. 


It’s Hard to Parent Well When You’re Holding Down the Couch


Melinda Means

Melinda is mother to a strapping teenage son and a beautiful and entertaining teenage daughter. She has written for Focus on the Family,, In Touch and Lifeway’s Journey. Melinda is also a regular contributor to The Mom Initiative and iDisciple. She is the Team Leader for Moms Together, a highly interactive Facebook mom mentoring group. Melinda is co-author of Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family (Bethany House, 2015), available on Amazon. You can visit her blog,  Mothering from Scratch.

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