My immediate reaction was a shocked laugh that I quickly tried to stifle. The intensity with which Norah expressed this tragedy is pretty common, but I've never gotten used to it. How does a four-year-old do that with such sincere and deep...mourning??
She continued, heart broken,"I don't want to be a mommy. Then you won't teach me piano anymore! I'll just be old with my own kids and remember being four and I'll cry and cry!" Here she stopped for a good cry while I held her and tried consoling her, still shocked by the strength of her emotions at the thought of growing up. What could I really say? "I'll see you every day you want to see me. I'll still play piano with you whenever you like. I'll never be far from you, sweetie." Everything I tried she saw right through - the stark truth was, she was getting older and there was nothing I could do about it. "But I'll know everything then, and you won't be able to teach me! I just want to be four forever and ever and ever!" More sobbs...
My oldest daughter tried her hand at it, "But when you're older, you'll get to have kids of your own, and a house, and . . . a dog! (I'm allergic :)" No good. She didn't want any of those things because she wouldn't have and be all the things she loved about being four. I went to her bed with her and held her while she continued for five minutes or more the emotional expressions of loss and fear. Now I was crying, too.
The realization came to me
that we don't really mourn the passing of childhood as we should. Norah's sorrow was profound, I decided. She never would be four again. One day she would eagerly embrace a new life where I would not be so dominantly a part. One day she wouldn't view each moment with me with such vigorous adoration. One day, I would be the one inconsolable.
Yes. I believe in a God who has my joy and Norah's as his goal. But a joy and eternal progression that only comes through opposition and a certain level of separation - we've all left the nest for a time. While it's a good thing...
... this progression from year to year - it's the saddest thing, too. All these goodbyes, even temporary or partial are sometimes more than I can stand. I'd much rather find a way to be frozen in time, learning together, playing together, loving each simple moment together.
But, I'll let Norah grow up. Partly 'cause I have no choice, but partly because as amazing as Norah is at four, my other children have taught me I'll feel the same about not wanting to let go of them at age six, or eight, or eleven . . . I begin to believe that the blossoming of a child is like a rose that never wilts, but becomes more beautiful and priceless with every passing year - even as the thorns begin to appear and prick or puncture at times. Deep down, we're all that four-year-old who wasn't afraid to show love and be loved. That's what God sees, I think. That's the view of us that he never loses. There's no goodbye to four, for Him.