Monday, July 15, 2019

And There She Grows

In June I sat under my parents' pavilion with my teenage niece and nephew. I was staring a 600+ mile drive in the face the next day and longed for another set of arms in the front seat that could throw snacks and drinks at the kids as I kept it on 10 and 2ish. After some begging and promising of half my savings account, Addison decided she could in fact take 3 weeks out of her summer plans to make a trek to the desert.

So for 3 weeks (and 2 days) I watched my niece. When we left Arkansas I had seen her still as the little girl I've always known. By the time we got back I realized she was no longer the child I had remembered. Yet she wasn't quite a young woman either. My mind circled this through time and again. Not a girl. Not a woman. What does it mean to be right there in the middle?

lawn concert

helping in the backseat

I think society lets boys grow up faster. Whether that is anti-woman or unfair or even completely true, I am not here to debate that. I simply think it is how it is.

Addison is old enough that she was able to watch Henry and AnnLouise for an hour at a time. She could help get them down for naps. She could shop for clothes with me and actually articulate what she knew looked good together. She talked on the phone with her friends in the most mature conversations. For instance she asked a friend what her sister's major at college would be and followed along in depth as another friend shared stories of her family's vacation. Addison is not a little girl.
makeup with Ashlee of Let's Face It Makeup Studio

Then she would not think about taking off her pajamas until I told her she simply must change before we went into public. No unicorn fleece PJs at HEB today. When my other nieces came to town, all younger than her, she played so sweetly with them. And most often I felt she played with the older two as though they were friends and not kids she was strapped with watching. Together they created backyard families and plastic meals and made-up games that didn't even make sense. The imagination of a child still lingers in her mind.
catching a ride to Mimi's

imagination central

I found myself hoping her imagination stayed. Not only Addison's but all 6 of the kids in my backyard. My heart yearned for them to keep their innocence. Their daydreams. Their childhood. Yet I could almost see Addison's youthfulness slip away as the expectations for her to help with a task lured her back inside.

It kept me up at night wondering when little girls become young ladies. What day does that happen? When do they play pretend in the backyard for the last time? And then, what, the next day they just sit on the porch and watch while they talk about boys? How do we hold their childhood dearly and then know when we can let it go?

I wonder the last time my mom called me in from the backyard? One day I was back there shooting hoops getting yelled at to come eat supper. Today I'm doing the cooking and yelling and so forthing. Or when was the last time a friend stayed the night with me? Did I have a friend over one night and the next day decide I just don't have slumber parties anymore? 
camping in Ruidoso

only brave one to pull out the rubber rat when geocaching
A few things in life we have definitive time frames for. Graduations, weddings, births. Those days we know the next day will look different. But coming of age doesn't have a timeline. It has memories and pictures, but it doesn't warn you that's all childhood is about to become. Coming of age lingers through the teenage years. It gives you dreams of things to come while holding you captive with innocence. It makes you want to move on but desperately cling to what you know. It gives you the space to venture but yanks the rope to bring you back.

These meandering teenage years and the confusion they bring are just settling in on Addison. My hope for her is that she clings as long as she wants to childhood, not allowing the pressures of middle school to grow her too fast. But as time does to all of us she too will eventually be pressed into a new age. When that day comes, I pray she stares down womanhood and embraces all of its wonderment and beauty. And then I pray we open our cradled arms and watch her soar.

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