At some point this past year I realized my children aren’t really children anymore, not in the strictest sense of the word. One is a teenager and the other a tween and that means that in the context of child development they are in fact closer to being adults than they are to being toddlers or preschoolers or children. My heart simultaneously leaps, shouts, cries, expands and contracts as I write that. As they bloom so do I, and yet it also tugs heavily when I think that they will soon be adults. Oh my god how I hope we still have a lifetime together. How I hope I will still be writing when I am holding my grandchildren in my arms. How I hope.
Of course I am happy and I hope for them all things wonderful and bright and beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. I know this is the goal. I hope the world opens its arms and spreads a carpet of rose petals at their feet. I know full well what awaits and I realize the world rarely scatters roses, but more often more tosses thorns. Still I hope. I hope for poetry, even as I prepare for traffic jams and the occasional broken heart. Life might be beautiful and it might also be hard and scary. It is always precious.
Right now there is today. There is tomorrow too. All these small moments still to savour. All the days when they lay sleepily recovering from ear infections while I work downstairs just feet away able to hug when hugs are needed, to medicate when someone hollers or sneezes, to cuddle and talk and build on the relationship we started when they were each placed in my waiting arms. Parenting these days is different. Parenting teens is not the same as parenting toddlers, even though I sometimes joke about the similarities on twitter. As they grow, this role, or job of parenting changes. You think well they will need me less this year and I will be okay with that, even though I will I miss carrying them in my arms from room to room, snuggling at bedtime in tiny toddler beds while reading Robert Munsch and Dr. Seuss. And they do, they grow these children of mine and I watch and love that I am able to see all of this happening. But their needs do not get smaller as I thought. They simply evolve.
So what of this? What of the changing roles we have? How is it different? Instead of walking with them in my arms, they walk behind me, in front of me, and occasionally beside me. I suppose that is a gift of sorts that my 13 year old still enjoys being able to walk beside me, even hand in hand at times. I wait silently every week for her to suddenly outgrow this and feel embarrassed by me in the same way all teens are embarrassed by their parents. I secretly rejoice she is not there yet. Our words now are the things we use as bridges to hold each other close and also stretch our wings. They are tethers and balloons in our hearts. Sometimes they are knives too. I am reminded of this when she launches into deep conversations that are moments to learn and build, grow and explore. They are every bit as sweet and important as the bedtime stories we shared.
This week we registered for high school. I easily recall registering this talkative and social baby for kindergarten and now this new phase is almost here. We are both thrilled and excited and hopeful it will herald something great and new and educational. And to be honest we are also both worried in some small ways. High school can be difficult for many. Changes are extremely difficult for kids who are adopted. Often change is harder for our kids who still feel occasionally unanchored and torn because of their start in life. This week we chose electives and together we both poured over the options weighing them in our hands. How many arts courses are allowed? How many courses in French? High school is still a shiny penny in some ways.
We are both excited that high school allows for chances to carve out wide open hours of creativity. This is the thing that fuels both of our hearts. Together we have chosen some dramatic arts and visual arts as electives, believing these will be the places she fits and excels. So hard to pick just two of these courses. We are both alike in that we could fill our days with creative pursuits. I would much rather write than do my invoicing. She would much rather draw than do math. We are, in our small family, the most alike in personality. We are both July babies, maybe this is why we are so similar.
Over this next year I hope she never stops talking. I hope that high school welcomes her with open arms and builds her strengths. I hope there are at least a couple of adults there who find her as special as I do. I hope she finds a teacher who will inspire her to carve a path through the future. Even just one teacher. That’s all it took for me was one special English teacher who cared and believed I had talent. I hope she continues to find her voice as she soars. I hope she never stops talking to me, dreaming with me, or holding my hand. I hope she continues to become a beautiful, creative young adult. I hope she dreams. I hope she asks. I hope she answers. I hope she creates. I hope she helps herself. I hope she helps others. I hope she opens doors and occasionally that others might hold them open for her. I hope we have chosen the right home for this all to unfold. I hope she feels safe. I hope she remembers her locker combination. I hope she very rarely discovers a rotting lunch left inside, forgotten. I hope she reads and writes and draws and sings and acts. I hope she sees this as she does a wide open sketch book and she draws her own story on all the pages. Mostly I hope.
Do you have teenagers? How is parenting them different? What are your hopes?