They Gave You Warnings
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
My sister will graduate from highschool on Saturday and she just celebrated her 18th birthday earlier this month. On the day after her birthday, I grabbed my notebook and wrote these words...
My sister turned 18 yesterday. As I laid in bed last night, I thought back over the day. It wasn't long before my thoughts turned to the years and the days that made them up. 18 seems like a HUGE change. In our society, 18 means that you're "grown". People begin treating you differently, the questions about what you want to do with your life turn into questions about what you ARE doing with your life, and all of a sudden, in one day, things change. I'm 8 years older than my sister and have spent quite a bit of time over the last 18 years serving as an extra set of eyes and hands to help raise her. I'm not her mother, but I'm convinced that my thoughts and feelings about her turning 18 are similar to what they would be if I was.
All of a sudden, I realize that we are here. We have reached the point where she is viewed as an adult. She will begin asking for and taking on more and more responsibility for herself and her actions. Just like that, the letting go and stepping back reaches a new high and like every other person who has faced it before me, I'm stunned to know that it's here. Every single day one more child crosses that so-called threshold into adulthood. And each time, a parent, grandparent, and those that have invested themselves in their life, find themselves wondering where the time went. It always comes as a shock, but the truth is, they gave you warnings.
It starts when they reach for the toy or the food. They've been watching you and they are ready to try it out for themselves. Pretty soon, they start to piece together sounds and that's when they pipe up with something like, "My turn." or "I do it." And just like that, the helpless baby has turned into a toddler willing and yearning to do things.
Before you know it, they are running around, attempting to pick out their own outfits and coming up with jokes to keep people laughing. They may be little, but they are giving you warnings that this won't last forever. You step back. You hand over the spoon and the toy. You organize their drawers with the outfits together hoping that they'll take the cue. You laugh at the jokes and every now and then you realize that they are growing up right before your eyes.
A few more years go by and they pick out their own books at the library. They pick a reading spot and it's not your lap anymore. They set up their own forts and plan their own fun. But even then, they're not ready to give up your lap or your games or your help for good. They are giving you warnings, but deep down, you both know that they still need you.
The next summer, they go down the slide without you at the pool. Pretty soon, they're ready to go into the deep end without you treading water nearby just in case. Before the summer is over, they are so busy going from pool to pool that you can't keep up. You wear your suit, but you pack a book and scope out a spot in the shade with the other moms. The warnings continue, and you take note. They don't need you, but you tag along because the things is, this is a ritual that you have come to really enjoy. Yes, it's hot. Yes, they spend half the time warming up on the sidewalk or hanging onto the edge in the deep end. Yes, you'd rather be that young mom pulling her toddler around in the small pool. But, you enjoyed those days while they lasted and now you're enjoying the ones that are here. They'll be over soon too, so you sit and watch and sweat and probably haven't even read more than a page or two because you spent the whole time watching them having their fun at the pool.
All of a sudden, they are teens. They have questions, they want to try EVERYTHING, and they are dealing with A LOT. You begin to discover the things you have in common and your differences become crystal clear. During these years, they are doing their best to find THEIR place in the world. They still need you so much and you both know it. You spend your time listening and walking the tight rope of stepping in to help and stepping back to let them try. They get into binds and you do your best to help them out. Though these years are said to be dreaded, you realize that they are actually a ton a fun. They bring their heartbreaks, their insecurities, their dreams, and their share of joys to you to share them with you. Then, they climb into the driver's seat. They get the job. They take part in the play. They invite friends over and head out for a long hike with a video camera and a trunk full of props. You're welcome, but there isn't room for you anymore. At least, not like there used to be. You stay involved, but now you are transitioning to your role as enthusiastic cheerleader.
And then it happens. They reach that magic night where they will wake up to be an "adult". The world tells you that your job is done and it hits you. It came so quickly. They gave you warnings and yet none of them prepared you for this moment.
My sister is 18. I heard the warnings. I listened and watched and did the best that I could at being what she needed me to be. Like all the milestones before it, this one is bittersweet. We made it. We'll continue to make it. She'll always be my sister and I'll never feel like my job is "done". With every stage, the warnings will be there and I'll take the cues. And she'll know that these eyes and hands belong to a heart and soul that love her so much more than they can ever express. Things change, but what was true for that helpless baby is still true. I'm here. I'll lead her and follow her and enjoy life alongside of her. She gave us warnings and she grew up and it still managed to catch me by surprise. I may not feel prepared for this moment, but we're both ready. We'll celebrate all that lies ahead just the way we celebrated all that is behind us. We'll make it.