I got a little frustrated at first. I was sitting down to eat lunch at the kitchen table and my four-year-old daughter’s huge princess castle was there on the table, taking up “my space.”
But my frustration quickly turned to a twinge of sadness, as I realized that it wasn’t going to be very long before that princess castle wouldn’t be anywhere in the house – let alone, on the kitchen table. In a few short years, my youngest daughter would go the way of her three older sisters and hit the double digits where phones, friends and social activities would take the place of that princess castle.
That day at lunchtime, my husband was traveling, my three older daughters were gone – as usual – and my toddler had already had her lunch. I was sitting at the table, beside a princess castle, eating my lunch… alone.
And so the twinge of sadness grew, as I realized that day, eating my lunch alone, that this was the first of many, many lunches, I would be eating alone. I realized that, not only do I have many weeks of eating lunch alone ahead of me, it won’t be long at all, that I’ll be eating lunch alone without the presence of a princess castle.
My frustration that had turned to sadness then took a turn towards grief. Selfish grief, that time would be stealing away my babies. This summer we had taken our oldest off to school 1500 miles away. I knew that daughter number two, then daughter number three, wouldn’t be far behind. And then, then this surprise baby, nine years behind our “youngest,” would follow as well.
“It all happens in a blink,” I thought that afternoon, eating my lunch alone with the princess castle. I finished my lunch with a lump in my throat.
I thought about my four daughters. I thought about how proud I am of each one of them. I thought about how much they are growing into their own people, with their own personality, their own gifts, and their own destiny. My grief lessened a bit.
“This is what it’s about,” I thought, while cleaning up my lone plate and fork. The wonderful gift of an infant, that you nurture and cuddle, that turns to a season of enjoying life through a child’s eyes, that turns to a season of mature conversations with a teenager, that turns to watching that same infant enter her own world of “adulting.”
And so I’m grateful. I’m grateful for that lunch I had alone, with the princess castle nearby. A simple lunch brought on a world of emotion. Parenting is a beautiful privilege. And sometimes when the frustrations come, you just have to follow that cycle of emotions until you find joy. Joy over eating lunch alone with a princess castle nearby.