The goal of raising children is what?
To help them grow and leave and go out on their own, right?
The downside of that is, if you do your job right,
THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO.
My oldest had to say goodbye to both of my parents, two of the people she loved most in this world, way too soon in the past two years. She aged and matured in the midst of that pain. Then she went to college three months ago, and I saw the first shoots of her independent self bursting through. I realized I was catching a glimpse of whom she’s becoming, whom she’s going to be “when she grows up.”
This week she has had to, once again, say goodbye to someone she cared about. Way too soon. I didn’t see her until after it was all over. I talked to her regularly, but I wasn’t there to hold her hand, to give her a hug, to decide what she could hear or be exposed to. I wasn’t there to protect her when the unkind things were said or when the really hard things happened. All I could do was offer to be where she needed me to be when she needed me and wait and listen. Letting her do this all by her big girl self, as she used to call it, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
All I could do was sit back and watch her spread her wings…..
and be a safe place for her to land.
She’s in the midst of learning what it means to be grownup.
And finding out it’s more than using curse words at will. Or picking out your own clothes.
It’s learning to sit back and hold your tongue, even when the other person is being unkind or foolish. It’s learning when to speak and when not to.
Being grownup means doing something even if you don’t want to, because it is, as Baddest Mother Ever says, “the next right thing.” It glitters like fun but hurts like heartbreak, and when it’s all said and done, most of us who are grownups are left looking around wishing the real grownup would appear, because this is so much harder than we ever thought it would be.
When I was younger, so much younger, I thought being grownup meant watching whatever you wanted on TV as late as you wanted, eating whatever you liked, chewing a pack of gum a day, talking on the phone whenever you wanted to, driving without limits, being with friends and coming in and not having to get up and do chores the next morning. I think when none of this actually came to fruition I was a bit shocked. Yeah, all that glitter and fun and the like–it’s not real.
Real grownups cry. They laugh at the faces babies make and the things their children say way harder than they ever did at any joke. They have relationships that matter and they work to keep them. They work hard before they ever get to play. Sometimes they go days without “playing.” Or weeks. Or longer. They say I’m sorry and don’t have to be right all of the time. Real grownups rarely get to sit at Starbucks for hours sipping lattes and reading the latest People magazine. They say thank you and mean it and then try to pay it forward. They bring joy to others, and as my Mama would tell us, they act like they are somebody.
As I watch this one, whom I swanee was in diapers and onesies just last week, grow and make mature choices, I sometimes have to bite my tongue. And sit on my hands. I want to help, but this week has shown me that my little bird is sitting at the edge of the nest. And ready or not, this girl is learning to fly and doing a pretty good job of it.
And while I realize that people like my parents and so many others have played a huge part in who she is, I also think about the things I’ve tried to teach her, and I give thanks. Sometimes it seems like she really was listening. And then I remember the little girl who was headstrong and adorable, just like her precious niece is now, who would curl up next to me on Friday nights and listen to the jazz music on public radio as we lay there in the dark, and I curse a little myself.
Time. And the job I did.
Sometimes I wish she would need me a little longer.
Then I smile. She will need me. Little birds have to take a rest and return to the nest every now and then. And those are the moments I will treasure the most. The ones where we talk and I hear all about her adventures in the big blue sky out there.
A page has turned. She is growing up on me.