My first baby screamed for six weeks. We didn’t know what we were doing; neither of us ever babysat a child, much less an infant. I remember coming home from the hospital and setting our baby and her carrier in the entrance, letting out a breath, thinking “Phew, the worst is over.” I was thinking about labor and delivery. Naïve.
Cara’s 16 now and she’s learning to drive. I’ve located the passenger side arm rests and ceiling handle, and I suffer from phantom brake syndrome. She started in the driveway and the school parking lot, then progressed to the cemetery. That’s right, the cemetery. The roads are narrow and the turns sharp, plus everyone there is already dead.
When my son was born, things were easier because we had two years practice. And the third child was easiest. She watched the others.
Yet on this Thanksgiving, I’m convinced God gave us the tween and teen years to prepare us for their emancipation, their flight from the nest. They nag, they fight, they break limits, they talk back, they blow you off. Let’s be honest, they are thieves, liars, and loafers. Yours aren’t? Lucky you. My scissors disappear, food disappears, my clothes disappear, the chores aren’t done.
They’re getting ready to go and we’re getting ready to let go.
Who are these little darlings everyone talks about in their holiday letters? with their trophies, in their gowns and suits, their lists of accomplishments outsizing my years?
Well I had a lesson coming this weekend and it’s one I won’t forget. Cara loves volleyball and plays for her school and a national club team. She is dedicated to the team and the sport, staying late, going in early.
This Sunday in front of a packed gym, Cara looked at her coach for approval and smiled, almost laughing as she stepped up to serve set point, match point, and championship point at the New England tournament. She tossed the ball high into the air, spinning it towards the ceiling, then jumped up and into the court, smashing it across the net for an ace. To win the finals in a close set 25-18, this child of mine made her career first topspin serve, something she’s never done.
I’m an athlete, but I could not imagine attempting something so bold. She taught me about guts and hard work and joy. And sometimes, you just have to step up to the line and let it rip.
At Thanksgiving each year I give thanks for our blessings. So thanks to each of you for the little things, the kind word, the bent ear. I’m especially thankful for my ‘little darlings’ and all that they bring to our lives. I can’t imagine life without them.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.
I leave you with this ‘gift’ of poetry from Poet Laureate Billy Collins whose understanding of teenage children is unmatched.
Billy Collins recites his poem about adolescence, deadpan at the TED talks.