“Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most.”
This quote from the movie Hope Floats has always struck a chord with me. And lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot. In fact, a few weeks ago, after a particularly trying and chaotic morning, I posted on Facebook: “Before kids, mornings were so much easier. But they sure weren’t as adventurous or fun.”
When you stop to think about it, our lives are one continual cycle of beginnings and endings. We move through the stages of our lives, which are made up of both. Some of them are profound—the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one—while other changes are more subtle—the changing of the seasons or milestones in life that at the time don’t seem so big.
Right now, I’m smack-dab in the midst of both ends of that cycle.
Soon, my oldest daughter, Maddie, will graduate from grade school. (She was 2 when I started writing this column!) She is excited about the adventures that lie ahead of her—new school, new friends, new chapter. I, however, am not taking
it well. Where did my baby go? How did she grow up so fast? She’s ready; I’m not.
All this growing-up stuff has been percolating for some time now, so you would think I would have seen it coming. Throughout the year I’ve mourned her last soccer game, her last volleyball game, her last school play. There have been enough warning signs. I’ve noticed the change in the tone and subjects of our discussions. Suddenly, conversations have gotten much broader. That’s not to say that she’s not still your average teenager. But topics such as who likes which boy are now interspersed with ones on broader issues and current events. The me is slowly opening to the we.
But it’s not just Maddie who is taking me through this cycle. Alex, now a 10-year-old young man, understandably no longer wants to snuggle on the couch. Riley, my third, made her first Communion a few weeks ago. And this spring my youngest daughter, Kacey, climbed out of her crib into a regular twin bed. I knew all of these changes were coming, but they still were met with a twinge of pain. I still cried the whole time I took the crib apart for the last time, even though Mark and I passed it on to another couple, who are ready to welcome an addition to their family. One more round of parenting beginnings and endings, joy and sorrow linked together.
Our faith is part of that whole cycle, too. Each year, the joy of Christmas, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus, eventually leads to Good Friday, when we mourn Christ’s death, only to see him rise again three days later. Once again, beginnings and endings connect our lives.
Each of these cycles can help us grow—as individuals, as parents, as children, as Catholics—if we are open to them.
This really hit home last month when Maddie made her Confirmation. As I sat in the pew, watching her take the step toward owning her faith, I realized that she was slowly stepping out from under her father’s and my shelter, taking steps toward her future, her faith.
Her faith is now her own. It wasn’t that she hadn’t owned it before, but her dad and I were mostly responsible for leading her through the faith process. We took her to Mass. We prompted her to pray. Now, while
we’ll still be there as guides, it’s primarily up to her to grow and nurture her faith. I have to let go and pray that we’ve done a good job of building her faith base.
In some ways, though, she hasn’t totally cut the strings between her faith and mine. As a nod to that lasting connection, she decided to choose my middle name—Marie—as her Confirmation name. I hope it was because I’ve shown her the importance of faith in our lives. As we move forward, I certainly will continue to pray with her and for her. Throughout all these beginnings and endings, she will always remain my baby girl.
So while I’m struggling with some of those changes, right now I’m trying to see them for the natural part of life they are. In the meantime, I’ll just try to enjoy all the everyday stuff in the middle, what makes life great while waiting for the cycle to continue.