There is a beautiful meadow with a bridge that all my kids thought was a real place when they were little.
I began telling them about this beautiful place when they were little, maybe 6 or 7. It was a big green meadow with the most perfect playground surrounded by flowers and open fields with green grass. All of their younger brothers and sisters were there and they were having a delicious time playing together. Sometimes the older kids were there, but not always.
I waited until they were ready to start thinking about it, then I set it all up in their perfect little heads. Their eyes were as big as saucers while I described the meadow and all the laughing and playing and running. I could tell it was their version of an idyllic place, each one a little different than the vision of the child before them. Keira’s had tons of open space to run in. Declan’s had ladders and things to climb but he was also able to join Keira and run with her. Kathleen’s was a bit quieter with little peaceful spots for reading and thinking.
That was the best part. Letting them make it their own. Some had castles and towers, others just green grass and flowers.
Why did I do this? Let me explain. For all of my children there came a time when they somehow knew that there was more than playtime to be had. Maybe it was when they realized that the older kids were allowed to do things that they weren’t. Maybe it was when make-believe play suddenly felt like make-believe. Maybe it was when Keegan realized that Kelly didn’t want to play Kingdoms as often.
It was different for each child, but when I knew they were ready to begin the transformation from a little child to one that is ready for more, then I knew it was time. Time for more privileges…more expectations…more purpose…more growth.
But with that came crossing the bridge.
I spoke with Keegan of the play that happened on the children’s side of the bridge. How fun it was. How everyone they loved was there. It was perfect.
“But have you noticed the bridge? It’s right over there! Have you looked on the other side? Can you see Brendan and Bridget and Kelly on the other side…they’re with me and Daddy.”
He just watched me…not sure where I was going with this.
“They’re waiting for you over there. They’re watching you grow and they know you’re getting ready to start across the bridge. That you’re ready to be a big kid.”
“How did they get over there?”
“They crossed the bridge. Not all in one day, but a little at a time and some days they stayed here and thought about it. When they were your age, they still wanted to be on this side, but eventually, they realized that Daddy and I were on the other side. So, when they were ready, they crossed over, one at a time. Now they want you to come across. Can you see them waving for you? They can’t wait for you to decide to join them!”
I made sure that they knew it was their decision when to cross. I also made sure they knew they could stay some days for now and still play. There was no rush. We would always be there ready for them with hugs and cheers.
There were many days when I brought the imagery back as they grew…or didn’t grow.
If they were having a great day and had behaved in a way that showed me they were growing, I would mention the bridge and that I could see them preparing to cross. But just as often, if they were having a tough day I would let them know that they weren’t living up to the expectations needed to cross. Often times they needed reminders, but that’s ok, it was a process.
Abby struggled during the “bridge years”. We prayed for her. We talked to her. We had her older brothers and sisters talk to her. It was not easy, but she came across with abundant joy. She even wrote her college essay about it. I cried.
I often wondered if they would remember the bridge when they were adults. Some remembered more clearly than others. Some are still crossing.