A homemade oversized ruler hangs at one end of our hallway. It is covered with carefully placed blue and white marks, along with some permanent marker scribbles left behind by my then sneaky, 3-year-old.

Every six months, growing feet are pressed back against the wall, eyes gaze forward, and otherwise wiggly bodies are held still as I carefully measure how much each of my boys has grown. As they huddle near each other examining the brand-new marks, my eyes always shift to the top of the ruler, and I wonder just how high the marks will eventually reach. It’s always a bittersweet moment—a mixture of thankfulness for healthy, growing kids, and a longing for time to slow down.

Perhaps you do something similar with your own kids—recording their height on a ruler, or a door frame, or a special wall. It is easy to see the passage of time as these carefully made marks climb higher and higher.

But besides physical measurements, there are so many other moments that mark our children’s growth.

Some of these moments fill our hearts with joy. Others leave our hearts aching.  

First smiles.

First steps.

A first tooth popping through.

A first tooth lost.

Baby jibberish turning into the sweetest sounding words.

First I love yous.

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First haircuts.  

Chubby toddler fingers losing their roundness.

Moving from a crib to a toddler bed, and then beyond.

Unpacking the diaper bag for the last time.

Giving away most of the baby clothes, and only keeping your favorites to pack away in a keepsake box.

Changing from a nursery to a big kid room. 

Going from a tricycle to training wheels, and then letting them go as they glide out of your reach.

Kisses and hugs at the classroom door on the first day of school.

Reading the same book over and over again, and then one day hearing your child read it back to you.   

Buying clothes that no longer have a “T” next to the size.

Having them request regular Band-Aids because “only little kids wear character band-aids.”

Dropping them off for their first slumber party.

Being called “Mommy” one day and just “Mom” the next.

No longer hearing the pattering of little footsteps down the hall in the middle of the night.

Telling them the truth about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

Reaching for their hand and having them hesitate just slightly.

Asking you questions far earlier than you were prepared for.

Watching them transition from elementary school, to middle school, and then on to high school.

Handing over the car keys for the first time.

Helping them through their first heartache.

Ordering their cap and gown.

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Each second, minute, hour, and day, our children become a little older, a little bit closer to leaving the nest. Maybe it’s our hearts that knowingly nudge us to take the time to record our kids’ measurements.

Because deep down, we sense those marks represent so much more than just physical growth.

Those marks symbolize the most precious gift a parent could ever receive—to watch our children grow and change and become exactly who God created them to be.

When our kids have left home and we catch sight of the measurements faithfully taken over the years, we probably won’t spend too much time thinking about how tall our kids have become. Instead, we will remember the firsts and the lasts. We will remember the joys and heartaches. We will remember the moments that marked our children’s growth, and the life that was lived in the spaces in between. 

And perhaps we instinctively knew, from the first measurement ever taken, that was the purpose all along.

Mary Ann Blair

Mary Ann Blair is a stay-at-home mom living in the Pacific Northwest with her two little gentlemen and hubs. She loves connecting with other parents who like to keep it real! Her work has been published on Her View From Home, Motherly, A Fine Parent, Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Red Tricycle and in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She can be found at maryannblair.com or on Facebook at Mary Ann Blair, Writer.