2 a : to honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business
I had lunch today with some girlfriends. This is a rare occurrence for me. Homeschooling 10 and 11 year old girls doesn't leave me with much free time. But when the opportunity arose today (and the aforementioned girls were at their tutorial), I decided to go. I went even though a part of me longed to go straight home and climb into bed for a long nap before picking K up from school. I went even though it was the opposite direction from home. I went because even though my first impulse is often to be antisocial, I need community. In fact, I probably need it more than I realize.
As you would expect, we chatted while we snacked on chips, salsa and guacamole. We talked over salad, soup and quesadillas. We mused as we finished off sopapillas. At some point, the talk turned to girls. One mom shared that she expects her daughter to hit puberty soon. We agreed on the importance of marking big transitions for our daughters and then started talking about just how to do that.
I'll often write a blog post to commemorate an event I don't want to forget (like A getting her first pair of pointe shoes). This is partly because I'm not a scrapbook keeper nor a memory box aficionado nor one to jot notes of this type in my journal. It's also because writing it down helps me cement my own thoughts and feelings about what happened. But there are some things that are hard to talk about on my blog. A family member's illness? A friend's dying child? Balancing a desire to pray for those who are sick and hurting with a desire to pretend the world isn't as painful as this? I don't/can't/won't process these things on my blog. Which has meant fewer posts of late because those around me are walking through some very hard times.
I am doing my best to walk alongside them. To not abandon them while I read a book and pretend everything is OK. To listen to their hurts. To pray for them in quiet. To simply imagine lifting them up to God when I don't even have the words to pray.
It was good to sit with friends today and not feel the burdens of the world quite so heavily for a few moments. It was good to think about how to honor our girls as they move from being little girls to young women. I'm not quite ready to fully imagine my daughters as full grown women, but I see them changing before my very eyes. They are young, but they are making the transition from prepubescent to pubescent. They are alternately working, struggling, fighting and embracing the job of figuring out exactly who they are. I want to meet them where they are and encourage them as they take steps towards becoming more self-sufficient, more adult, more of who they are meant to be. But this happens in fits and starts, not in a consistently plot line. It's one thing to write about my daughters milestones, but what do I do to celebrate them? What action am I taking? They are working at growing up. How am I working to help them do it?
Tonight I asked A and B to make four salads for us while I put the rice and black beans into bowls. They started unhappy. Unhappy escalated to exasperation for A, who quickly told me she wasn't capable of making a salad. Unhappy escalated to anger for B when she realized she was to make salads for others, not just herself. Should helping make dinner (especially when it's something as easy as a salad) be a part of growing up? Certainly. Do my daughters long for this part of maturity as much as they are counting down the days to riding in the front seat of the van? Not on your life.
One action I have to take - and take more consistently - is teaching, encouraging and even forcing my daughters to be more self-sufficient. Each daughter has a set of chores, but I'll be honest and say that housekeeping is not a huge priority for me, so I'm a bit inconsistent in my administration of chore time. I'm also a 9 who needs (or should I say longs?) to avoid conflict. So I do the dishes myself rather than listen to A complain. I wash the laundry myself rather than fight with B about how old one should have to be to do laundry. I need to grow in this area. I need to be willing to fight the small battles in order to prepare my daughters for life when they leave my home. I'm just confessing that's a hard part of parenting for me.
A and B have reacted to life differently from the outset. By the time B was fifteen months old, I knew I needed a different set of discipline techniques than those I used with her older sister. They don't like the same things, participate in the same activities or wear the same clothes. Predictably, they have treated discussions of impending puberty with completely different reactions. A had an uneasy anticipation. B's stance is best described as dread. I've tried to mitigate this with the reward of pierced ears accompanying the first period, along with a personalized bag containing pads, tampons, Coca-cola (the cure to all ills) and chocolate (who doesn't crave chocolate?).
These practical steps are really just a way of trying to honor my daughters. A set of earrings and a cool bag are just vehicles to trying to make my daughters understand that they are valuable, precious and worthy. They're also an attempt to acknowledge that some of the best things in life are both good and hard. Do many of us wish there was a path to fertility that didn't include monthly cramps, headaches and bleeding? Yes. But that's our path, nonetheless. Does the good outweigh the bad? Yes. Does the good make the hard disappear? No. And that's one lesson I want them to learn: that the hard things in life are worth it as much as the good things.
I want to be a family that celebrates the good and bad, hard and joyous part of life. All of it. Because that's what life is about.