Goodbye Early Childhood (Grieving, Perspective, Gratitude)

After a long, full, marathon-distance walking last three days at Disney to celebrate her 9th birthday, we arrived home. Ahhh….

Not so fast.

Just as she was getting ready for bed, she collapsed in tears, triggered, perhaps, by seeing pictures of her first nine years that I picked up at the corner Walgreens. I had them printed and ready for pick-up to share in school tomorrow.

Anyway, she cried deeply and told me, “I miss being 6 and 7, even 8.” She kept repeating that she missed being 6 or 7.”

Knowing that we humans can set up meanings in such highly emotionally charged moments that affect our destinies, my first inclination was to tell her that she’s going to have a great year ahead. “You get to decide what it means,” I told her.

But I simultaneously took her in my arms and told her that I understood. And, I really did understand. Just to have one’s sadness validated is step number one. Then, we can look for some more empowering meanings and perspectives.

She told me that she didn’t want to grow up and that she loved being little and doing adventures with me.

While telling her I understood, I did then try to assuage her sadness…

“Age is just a number. It’s just a measurement of how many times you’ve circled the sun. You can be whatever age you want to be in your spirit.”

“I really understand how you’re feeling, honey. But you weren’t born to remain little forever. You have gifts to share.”

“It’s the feeling you’re after of being in the moment, free, happy, and you can decide that that is going to be the center of your life forever.”

As her sadness returned in waves in between my words, I realized it was really just very common…

“I understand. I think I felt the same way (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever truly gotten over the wonder of my first 12 years.). I felt it as a kid, as a teen, when I entered my 30s and said goodbye to my 20s and now in four years, I’ll say goodbye to my 40s. Fifty? How am I going to be 50? I can’t ever go back. Wish I could with some things. That’s why I tell you certain things, so you don’t have to go through what I did.”

“Nine is still so young!”

“It’s a part of life, honey, and it’s something you just learn to embrace. At first, it’s a bit sad as you notice one period of your life ending, but then new adventures await in the next stage.”

“We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we think about it.”

She of course, countered that she wishes she could control it so she could be little forever. She mentioned our adventures when she was very little, how she used to ride on the back of my bike as we sang songs. Our daily favorite was, “Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me…”

Clearly, those pictures from Walgreens had triggered her.

In the end, nothing I said quite hit the nail on the end, which is when I realized that it didn’t have to. It is a bit of a sad passing, a letting go. And letting go of this incredibly sweet, sweet dance she and I have had is understandably hard.

So, I just told her again that I understood, to let the sadness pass through and that I’d do everything I could to make the next year the most magical one of all.

She nodded somberly and drifted off to sleep with me snuggling her and singing the songs I’ve always sung.

Then, I laid out the pictures from Walgreens for this post, and I felt a bolt of heartbreak course through me, too. We can’t ever get it back that time. It is heartbreaking. This period is, indeed, over.

Cue long sigh.

And, with gratitude and positive expectancy, the next chapter begins…

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