In this flawed, imperfect world, humans are bound by time and space, and nothing makes you think about that more than traveling through certain seasons and finally understanding your parents a little more each time. It's like being on a Ferris wheel, and your parents are always about 6 cars ahead of you. You won't understand their view, their perspective, their emotions from that particular place on the wheel until you get there yourself.
40 isn't a magic number, but I think the season I've landed in at 40 has been one of the most reflective as far as parenting goes. The kids are off doing their own thing. Closeness grows with one child and diminishes with another. The house is still, quiet, empty. You wonder where your place is now and how your time should be filled. And then when you fill it with enjoyable things, you feel guilty. Because your kids feel far, and you should be in mourning.
This season is a time of regret, realization, and resolve. First the regret of the "should have"s and the "could have"s. Then the realization that you can't turn back the clock. That no one gets it right. That God holds your children in His hands despite your efforts--good or bad. And then you resolve to do better starting now, and you know that "better" is still going to miss the mark, but you will do the best you can anyway at loving, reaching out, being there, whether they need you (or want you!) or not.
This season is a time of looking 6 cars ahead, straining to see your parents. Are they laughing? Are they scared? Are they enjoying the view? You want to move from this spot you are currently stuck in to get to the top, but you know that will only put you closer to the end of the ride. But maybe it's better there. Maybe you're less scared, more comfortable with the rocking of the car and the knowledge that your life is being held up by an arm that is steady, consistent, strong.
I can't always see those faces 6 cars ahead, but I know they are there, and they know what it's like at the spot I'm in right now. And when I do catch glimpses 6 cars ahead, I mostly see people enjoying the view with smiles of wonder over the smallness of things that once appeared too large to fully comprehend.
I try not to think too far ahead, to the time when my parents will exit their carts. One thing I am certain of, though--when that time comes, they will be waiting for me to finish my ride. Waiting and watching and knowing that strong arm will bring my car safely to the end.