a safe place for her to land

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.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, or T-Shirt Slogan, or Pajama Bottoms…..

So I sat in a courtroom today and was overwhelmed by the broken stories that surrounded me.  Broken relationships, broken finances, broken homes.  At one point I just hung my head from the weight of it all.

I sat, listening and remembering all the times I sat in that same courtroom waiting to see if I’d be chosen for jury duty.  (I never was.)  The first time was when I was in college.  I was so young then.  Things looked a lot different in that grand room today, and I promise you they haven’t changed so much as a window blind.  Especially not those hard wooden benches.

This. The exact same shirt the guy had on!

This. The exact same shirt the guy had on!

I looked around and saw a man seated in the middle of the courtroom.  His shirt had the message on the back:  “It’s on like Donkey Kong.”  Which cracks me up.  But as I sat there, I wondered if he had really thought through his shirt choice.  He was there, part of what seemed like a less than amicable case.  I sat thinking, as there was little else to do.  Phones were to be shut off, I couldn’t see the only clock in the room, I really couldn’t hear the folks giving their side of each story, and I had left my book at home despite my good intentions.  The more I thought about it, I realized maybe he wore the shirt to garner the same wherewithal that I wore these for:

pic of mah boots 2

When I wear these, I feel like I can conquer the world.  At least my little small segment of it anyway.  So I wear them to bolster my confidence and remember the girl I was raised to be by the folks who gave them to me.

Maybe the shirt does the same for this guy.  It sounded like he was going to need it.

So yeah, I decided that instead of judging folks for their fashion choices in situations such as court or theater or LIFE, maybe I should be a bit more understanding.  Then my eyes landed on the woman in her pajama bottoms.  No sooner than my brain and eyes had done a double take, she ran out of the room about to be sick to her stomach.  Ah.  Bless her.

Around our house, the motto is “Comfort is King.”  I get it.  I had to fight the urge to wear my jeans today.  (I compromised with a denim dress, my boots, and a rather matronly sweater.  Ignore the safety pins in the back of my GW Boutique dress to make it fit.  The sweater covered them, and I only set off the security scanner twice.)  So yes, I knew what prompted her to wear the pajamas, and then the fact that she was sick…..I wanted to applaud her for even showing up.  Bless her heart.  (and stomach)  Not everyone who is supposed to show up actually does, did y’all know that?  Anyway, I wanted to high five her, but I didn’t, out of respect of her condition and my germophobia.  But I did in my mind.  (Does that count?)

And so it goes.  My lesson for today was don’t judge folks.  Period.  I don’t know what path they walked that brought them to that room, just like they don’t know my story.  The most important thing we’re told to do is love other folks. I think it’s time to look beyond tattoos, piercings, baggy/saggy pants, and all the stuff that makes us different–and look to see the person beyond all that window dressing.  Not all who have body piercings or tattoos are uncontrollable wild creatures, and not all who wear business suits and buns have their acts together and are productive members of society.  We all have hearts and a story.  It’s time to cut through all the extra stuff and just listen.  Listen for the heart in each story, to what brought them where they are.  And to love.  In the end, all that extra stuff really doesn’t matter anyway.  Bottom line–we’re more the same than we are different.

Life’s just too short to believe otherwise.