Birthday Baby

It is impossible to figure out where the time has gone. Somewhere between the blissful new baby infatuation, the clingy toddler, the determined child in the dance recital, the see my artwork in the school show, the watch my tennis match, and the help me move into my dorm room, something happened. My child grew up.

claireToday, my baby turns 21. And I know it has been said before by hundreds of thousands of parents, but I swear I do not know how these years have passed in the blink of an eye.

Here are a few things we know about this poised young woman who just a second ago was a colicky, non-stop, real life crybaby:

  • She is smart; not just book smart but really savvy. She has an excellent grasp of how things work, and the common sense know-how to make things happen.
  • She is funny; not in a rolling on the floor in laughter kind of way, but in a pun-making, witty, sharp as a tack way that makes you smile and sometimes roll your eyes.
  • She is academically well-rounded. She excels in writing, is a strong public speaker, has a sharp mind for history and politics, and is also pretty strong in math and physics.
  • She says exactly what she thinks. This is both a blessing and a curse, because not everyone is thick-skinned enough to take what she sometimes dishes out. Be warned: if you ask for her opinion you will always get it. Sometimes you will get it even without the ask.
  • She cares deeply about our planet, about people, about education, about equality for all people, and about peoples’ rights.
  • She believes deeply and spiritually in demonstrating her Christianity, which is also a commitment to humanity.
  • Even when she is flying under the radar she is fierce. She doesn’t always have to take charge, but if others aren’t pulling their weight she will do the work of six people just to make sure her name isn’t on something that doesn’t meet her Mt. Everest-height standards.
  • People notice her striking curly, auburn hair first, but it takes a little while before they see her inner beauty.
  • She is our youngest, and while she occasionally relishes the role of baby of the family, it has also made her a natural competitor in a take-no-prisoners kind of way.

And now she is turning 21 and is a full-fledged adult (except for returning home to live while she’s working during the summer, which is more than fine with us.)

Parents of infants and toddlers take note: CHILDHOOD IS SHORT! So when they want to sit in your lap while you read another story, let them. When they want you to push them on the swing set again, do it. When they want you to watch their soccer match, show up. When they sing or play in a concert, be in the audience. When they just need a hug, give it.

I will freely admit to having made some mistakes when our kids were young. Despite that, they seem to be turning out okay. Watching our daughters now in the bloom of adult-hood, it is a delight to see how self-confident and self-reliant they have become. So today, we no longer have “children,” just two wonderful, young adults.

Happy Birthday to our beautiful, caring, brilliant, big-little girl!

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Friendship

The first person that I ever called “friend” lives just half an hour away from me now. When we first knew each other we lived right next door with a sidewalk that separated our houses by about five feet. We could literally open our bedroom windows and talk to each other, and we did. Our second and third grade selves swooned over Davy Jones and chilled out to The Beatles. We hung out with the neighborhood kids until dark on summer nights, doing a whole lot of nothing. It was a great life.

That's me on the left, with my friend.  We are standing in front of her house.  My house is in the background, so you can see how close our houses were.

That’s me on the left, with my friend, probably about 1967. We are standing in front of her house. My house is in the background, so you can see how close our houses were.

Then my family moved away, and I eventually lost touch with my very first friend. But there are some very good reasons to love social media and this is one of them: we reconnected on Facebook, and that’s how I know she still lives in our old hometown. She somehow unearthed this photo of the two of us and posted it, and we really MUST find a time to get together. Even though it’s just half an hour away, it sometimes seems daunting because life gets far too busy. But it shouldn’t. Not for friends.

When I pause to count blessings, I am overwhelmed by the truly wonderful women I am lucky to have as friends. Some are people I grew up with and we have been friends for over four decades. These people know more about me than some members of my own family. Sometimes, I think they know more about me than I even know myself. But they are not telling, because friends keep each others secrets. Since one member of our little group lives pretty far away now, I will drop everything to spend just a little time with her when she is in the area. Luckily, one of those times is coming up!

I am fortunate to have friends whose children have grown up with my children, friends I have worked with, and friends I have met through other friends. The past couple of weekends I paused from my otherwise intense spring home and yard chores to have coffee with friends: two separate occasions with two separate friends. One lives locally and we see each other occasionally, but it was really special to have some one-on-one time. The other lives in the area, but we really don’t get much time together since she moved an hour and a half away, so it was great to catch up. These opportunities to catch up on our kids, our interests, or our jobs are just cathartic. These shared moments are nothing special, and everything special, all at the same time.

I could spend a lot of time analyzing the key ingredients for friendship, but honestly that’s just a waste of time. The older I get, the more I realize that the really important thing is to just be together once in a while. There is no need to analyze everything. We can just let friendship be what it is.

So….to my very first friend…watch your Facebook message box. I’m throwing some dates out to you. We can have lunch, or coffee, or just take a walk. But we WILL reconnect in person. Soon.

Make It Better

What do you do when your just barely 20 year old calls from college and says she is injured?  We try not to overreact, so here’s what we did.  We counseled her as best we could on the phone.  She texted and called periodically while negotiating through her university’s health care system.  She managed just fine.  Great, in fact!

She had injured her kneecap in a minor incident, but then exacerbated the injury during a workout.  This daughter is a bit of a gym rat, which makes me wonder if she actually is my daughter.  Then I recall the six months when she was a colicky infant and did nothing but cry, and the image of her at about age 4 that actually looks just like me at that age…so much so that her cousin/my nephew actually once mistook a picture of me for her.

We offered to drive there and help her out, but she declined.  She had it all under control.  It makes a parent very proud.  Proud, and dejected.  Because on some level we still want them to need us – just a little bit.  We still want to feel like maybe just a hug from a parent can help.  We still want the “kiss it and make it better” feeling.  That’s what WE want, not what SHE needs.

So when she called the next morning and asked if we could come and help her with her laundry, of course we did.

My brain heard her say something like, “I need to do laundry, and can’t haul all my stuff to the laundry room while I’m on crutches.  Would you mind coming to help?”

What my heart heard was, “I just want and need my mommy.”

Her first broken wrist - yes, it was the same wrist both times.

Her first broken wrist – yes, it was the same wrist both times.

We tossed off all of our other very minor plans for the day, boarded the dog, threw ourselves and a few things into the car, and took off on the 2 ½ hour drive.  We helped with the laundry, took her and a friend out for dinner, and then we drove home in the lousy visibility on the rainy highway arriving as the clock struck midnight and the rain started to turn to snow.  Tired, but feeling like we can still make some small contribution to her life aside from helping with exorbitant tuition bills.

When she broke her wrist in third grade, and then again in fourth grade (but that’s a different story), we were there to get her to the emergency room.  When she had a tennis injury, we took her to sports medicine.  When she had the flu and strep throat all at the same time, we took her to the pediatrician and made sure she got her prescriptions filled.  Now she is managing all of these things on her own.

It is more joyful than painful to watch our now young adult manage her own life – the good and the bad, the healthy and the broken.  It is a blessing to see her stand on her own two feet…once she’s off the crutches.

But it did feel good when both head and heart heard her say, “Sometimes, you just want your parents.  Thanks for coming.”

It turns out that once in a while just a hug from a parent can still help.  She is awesome!

Mirror Mirror

We look for the mirror to reflect back our best.  That is true physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  We also expect the mirror to show us our flaws, in the hope that we can make them better.

That is the true nature of friendship:  show us the reality of who we are, and at the same time lead us to improvement.  Those are the real friends – the people who reflect our best and are willing to see our worst.  They not only accept the reality, they share in our joys and sorrows.  They help us to grow and become better people.

Friends

Friends

In our home, when our daughters are here their friends are here too.  There is a special kind of energy in the house when they are here together.  It is connectedness on a different level, not just for our kids but for our whole family.

We have always felt fortunate that our daughters have excellent friends.  They chose to connect with kids who, like them, were involved:  in music, academics, sports, church, volunteering, and life.  Their friends were more than just playmates.  They were sounding boards and competitors.  They shared open dialogue and sometimes arguments.  They lifted each other up and helped each other through the awkward years.

Our kids always knew that their friends were welcome in our home.  They had their alone time together.  They had sleepovers and parties.  We also shared family time with them.  We ate together, played games together, and went places together.  At a concert or a sporting event, we applauded and cheered just as loudly for their friends as we did for our own kids. I would sometimes come home from work and find the kitchen a mess after their baking sessions.  That still happens.

Having watched these people grow up, we now get to see their next steps and it’s exciting.  We stand in awe as they move into young adulthood.  They are continuing their educations, or working, or both.  They are gracious and caring.  They have purpose in their lives.  They are committed to things they believe in.  They are headed across continents into career paths they may not have fully discovered yet.  They are smart and savvy.

We don’t know their new friends very well.  We may have been introduced in a dorm or apartment at one time or another.  We may have shared an occasional meal during a visit to one of their colleges.  We hear their names.  But some we have never met, and it is hard to put an unknown face to a name.  Never the less, we are certain that our daughters have made great choices in their new friendships.  We know that, because the groundwork was laid a long time ago with some extraordinary people.

Now, after their holidays, our daughters and their friends are heading back to their own lives in far flung places.

A mirror is not truly a reflection of who we are.  It gives us a glimpse of who we want to be, and sometimes who we didn’t know we were.  I hope you always have one by your side, in the form of a real and honest friend.