Milk Cartons, Tears and a Change of Seasons

Homemade cheesebread with marinara sauce.

“Oh no, what if Lewis can’t open his milk carton?”

Those were the first five words on the back-to-school lunch menu and that was the thought that ran through my head sending a fresh waterfall of tears down my face. Yes, I read the school lunch menu and cried. And cried. And cried.

That was several years ago, but I remember it like it was several blinks ago.

Lewis was (and still is) my baby. The one I had to myself for four years while his brothers were in school. The one who sang wonderful made-up songs, daily made me laugh out loud and liked to wear the same way too small orange shirt. Every. Single. Day. The one who wasn’t supposed to grow up. 

What if he can’t open his milk carton? What if he gets hurt and wants his mommy? What if he gets tired and needs a nap? There was no end to the (often irrational) thoughts that filled my head as I sent my little man off to begin his own life adventures.

But I know deep down the reason I kept crying was not because Lewis might not be able to handle school. It was file4301249326424because I might not be able handle life without Lewis.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom.

And from the time our oldest was born in 2001 to the time I sent our baby to school in 2012, being a mom was my fulltime job. I did all the things every little girl dreams she will do as a mom.  I fed my babies, rocked my babies, bathed my babies, strolled down the street with my babies, read books to my babies and checked on my babies every single night just to watch their little chests move ever so slightly up and down.

Now I stood on the edge of a new reality for my life, and I couldn’t get the picture to focus through the blur of my tear-stained eyes.

My heart breaks a little as my children grow, and I am needed less. Of course, I want them to grow up. I want them to become independent. I want them to tie their own shoes, zip their own coats, open their own milk cartons and learn to drive a car. But with each new thing they accomplish on their own, one more thing gets crossed of my list of responsibilities. And that’s a hard reality to face. 

But as this summer came to a close and I sent my oldest to high school, my middle one to middle school and my baby to third grade, I was reminded that I love my boys exactly where they are. I love the crazy chaos of having school age kids. Lewis with his funny stories, Carter with his newfound friends at youth group and Owen with his stinky, grass stained football uniform he forgets to ask me to wash until 10 p.m. the night before game day.

It’s a wonderful life, as they say.

And though that first day of school is still always a melancholy one for me, God keeps showing me that it’s okay to let one chapter close and another begin. It’s good to let summer go and look forward to what the fall will bring.

 A Midwestern girl from birth, I have always loved the distinct and beautiful visible change in seasons. The first buds on the trees in the spring. The first pool-worthy day of the summer. The first orange and red leaves in the fall. The first winter snow that turns the dead brown ground sparkling white.

And I am learning to appreciate the change of seasons in the lives of my boys, and in my mom life as well. Because each new season brings good things; distinct and beautiful.

Kim Harms

Kim Harms is a writer, speaker and contributor at CT Women (formerly Today's Christian Woman), and has a degree in English: Literary Studies from Iowa State University. Her work can be found in many publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Creation Illustrated and a variety of devotionals. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries in 2016 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She writes about her "Life Reconstructed" at kimharms.net. Central Iowa is home, and she lives there with her husband Corey and their 3 ever-growing man-children.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Kim,
    Your Upper Room devotion that included your journey that became “a little farther,” was so beautifully written and very inspirational. Thank you for sharing those fearful times and the precious story of your special family.

    Could you share what it is you say or do when you see a stranger who is in the midst of cancer treatment? Sometimes it is hard to know whether to say something (like what?) or to just pass on a friendly (not a pitying) smile. I would appreciate any suggestion and understand if you are unable to answer this note. Regardless, you have touched me with “a little farther” and I will save it in my inspirational notes.

    God bless and keep you and yours,
    Sheryl Lankford

  2. I am happy to share some ideas with you, Sheryl. My cousin, who is going through breast cancer right now and lost her hair from chemo told me a stranger came up to her and said “I just said a prayer for you.” I love that! And that is what I hope to do. To pray for each bald from chemo person I see, and if I have the opportunity, to let them know I prayed. A friendly smile is nice as well. One of the things that I appreciated so much this year was when friends, family and acquaintances just acted normal around me. (The word cancer can make people awkward sometimes.) I loved it when people made me feel like Kim, not like “poor Kim with cancer.”

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