My husband, Eric, pulled our rented SUV into a parking space as I pointed out the trailhead to the kids.
“This stop has a beautiful waterfall, but it’s a short hike to see it,” I said.
“How much longer until we get to Hana?” 12-year-old Nathan asked.
“Several hours, but remember, the road to Hana isn’t about getting to Hana,” I explained.
“We’re going to be in the car all day, but it’s not about Hana as a destination. We’re supposed to focus on enjoying the journey.”
Our family was on vacation in Maui, Hawaii, and we were driving on the famous Hana Highway. It was a beautiful drive, but this highway was unlike any I’d ever been on. The 103-kilometre route winds through a lush tropical rainforest with 620 switchback curves and more than 50 one-lane bridges, with dozens of stops for sightseeing.
We piled out of the car and hiked a short distance to see the waterfall. As we posed for pictures, a woman offered to take a photo of all five of us. We eagerly agreed.
When we were done, we headed for the next stop, a botanical garden. Eric, Nathan and my older son, Jordan, weren’t interested in seeing flowers, so my 19-year-old daughter, Julia, and I walked through the gardens on our own. There, we saw the woman who had taken our family photo at the waterfall.
“Do you want me to take some of the two of you?” she smiled, reaching for Julia’s phone.
As we posed, the woman asked where we were from and how old Julia was.
“I can’t believe how much you look like your mom,” she told my daughter.
“A lot of people tell us that,” Julia replied. “I take it as a compliment.”
The woman smiled and handed back Julia’s phone.
“I’ll probably see you again at the next stop. Bye for now!”
Julia and I waved goodbye and headed back to the car.
The Finish Line
The next stop was a beautiful beach with black sand, something we’d never seen before. Nathan was especially excited.
“Mom, do you want to look for shells with me?” he asked.
As we strolled down the beach, heads down so we wouldn’t miss any pretty shells, Nathan literally bumped into the woman who had taken our photos. He apologized profusely, but she laughed it off.
“It’s OK,” she smiled. “I’ve seen your family at every stop. We’re old friends now.”
Nathan smiled and thanked her for not being mad. Then he wandered off, looking for shells again.
“Is he your youngest?” the woman asked.
I nodded. “I can’t believe he’s 12 already.”
“You’re almost to the finish line.”
“Can you imagine if God decided He was done parenting us when we got to a certain age?”
“The parenting finishing line. You’re almost done.”
“Done parenting?” I blurted. “Is that a thing?”
She laughed. “Of course, it is. My kids are all grown up. I’m done parenting.”
“But you’re still their mom, and you always will be.”
“Yes, but my kids do their own thing now. They don’t need me anymore.”
“Well,” I said, “not every day like they did when they were little, but when they have a problem, I’m sure they still depend on you, right?”
She shook her head. “Not really. My daughter is married, and my son has several close friends. Those are the people they count on now.” She shrugged. “They’re adults. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”
I nodded as though I understood what she was saying, but I really didn’t. Nathan ran up, holding out his shells for me to see. I said goodbye to the woman and followed Nathan back to the beach chairs where our family was lounging.
Not Just for Kids
I sat down next to Julia and told her, “I don’t ever want to reach the parenting finish line.”
Seeing her quizzical look, I continued, “The picture woman said that her kids are adults and that means they don’t need her anymore. She said she’s done parenting.” With a lump in my throat, I went on, “I don’t ever want to be done being your mom.”
Julia grabbed my hand. “You won’t be,” she said. “I’ll always need you, no matter how old I get. You give great advice and you’re my biggest supporter. Those are things I’ll need for my whole life.”
“Thanks, Honey,” I said. “I could hardly believe it when that lady started talking about the parenting finish line. It scared me that you and your brothers might grow up and not need me anymore.”
She shook her head. “That won’t ever happen.” I squeezed her hand, thankful for her reassurance. We watched the ocean for a minute. Then she said, “Can you imagine if God decided He was done parenting us when we got to a certain age?”
“I can’t imagine. I’m in my 40s, and I need God’s help every day. If He suddenly decided I was too old to depend on Him, I’d be lost.”
Julia nodded. “I think God wants to be there for His children, no matter how old we get. Just like you do, Mom.”
When we finally reached Hana, we were surprised at how small and unremarkable it was. We’d spent all day getting there, but “getting there” wasn’t the point. What mattered was the journey and being together along the way.
As a Christian, I know heaven is my destination when my life here is over. But we don’t have to wait until then to spend every day with God. Like the loving Father He is, God wants to walk beside us and help us throughout our earthly journey. And needing our Father’s help isn’t just for kids.
Diane Stark is a wife, mother of five and freelance writer from rural Indiana. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith.