As they finish school, our girls feel proud and bittersweet, excited for what’s ahead but already missing what they’ve had this year. Good teachers, good friends, and much learning.
It was also a wallop of a year for them in many ways. And I’d like to think that the challenges they faced made them stronger. Because these girls certainly had a lot of them.
My lovely and vivacious older daughter, who was in 4th grade this year, sprained her ankle twice and her finger and elbow each once, forcing her out of softball season and other activities for extended periods, frustrating her greatly. And although she has a good group of friends, she had to deal often with a couple over-competitive types in class, including one who kept hurling insults at her for whatever reason. She also saw her body starting to change a bit, which created all sorts of whirlwinds within her — and questions we’ll spend the summer answering…
My sweet and lovely younger daughter, who was in kindergarten this year, saw her teacher leave school because of a serious recurrence of cancer. (My older daughter had the same teacher in kindergarten when the cancer first occurred – so hard to face, especially since the teacher is a young mom and friend of ours). My younger girl also found herself among a group of classmates who kept getting into intense dramas and conflicts she simply wasn’t used to at her young age.
And both of them had to deal with things together for the first time:
- The passing of their grandpa, their first experience of death in the family.
- The passing of their two pet fish, no small thing for little kids, even though the fish survived for years past their life expectancy, and
- The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, when they first learned that their ancestors suffered and died for their Christian faith and that the perpetrators and their descendants still deny the tragedy.
A lot of heavy stuff, but they got through it with our family’s prayers, hugs and smiles, and strength from above. And thankfully, it was all balanced by several good ‘firsts’ as well:
- The first friend sleepovers and the lovely new friendships
- The neighborhood friends first real bonding as a group of lifelong pals – kids AND moms!
- The first science teams and inventions, with awards
- The memorable school performances, premieres and music recitals
- One winning her first writing contest and the other being in the paper for the first time
- The girls’ first Father-Daughter dance with Daddy
- Their first trips to San Francisco, New York and (soon) Washington DC
- Their first Broadway show
- Their first neighborhood business ventures (Custom Spirograph Books, Babysitting and Dishwashing Services!)
- Seeing their baby cousin on the first day she was born — and not being the youngest ones in the extended family anymore!
There was so much more – and I’m grateful for all of it. Why?
1. Everything that happened this year made our girls more of whom they are meant to become. Our girls have grown in mind, character, compassion and faith, as well as a few clothes sizes! They know themselves far better, too, which can only help down the road.
2. This year helped them see that they can get through. Our kids thought their world was going to end when this or that circumstance didn’t pan out. Then they saw that the world didn’t end the next day. The world just — changed, and they realized that they were still okay. It happened many a time this year, and a mom can never spend enough time reminding their kids how they will be all right, they will get through, they will thrive, no matter what curve balls come their way.
3. It toughened them up. Our girls are strong but primarily sweet and polite. However, this year they learned how to hold their own, how to defend themselves if necessary (verbally and physically), how to call others out on wrong behavior — and how to walk away from those who will never change.
4. It reminded me that my kids will be okay despite my mistakes. And so will I. I’m thankful God is in control of the big picture. Despite my missteps of losing patience or misjudging a person or situation, I’m grateful we got through anyway, and perhaps even better than I expected. Thankfully, it’s not all up to me. I’ll just have to remember that again during the angst of junior high and the pressures of high school.
5. It brought them even closer together. The girls love each other but showed even more support and championing of each other than I ever could have anticipated. I couldn’t be more proud. And I marveled at their sweet playtimes and discussions at home all year long — especially when they thought I wasn’t looking 😉
We moms can’t help but make laundry lists that take stock of our lives – things we’re thankful for and things we want to get rid of, things to discuss with someone, things we have to do, things we need to change, things we want or need.
But I think it’s key to make similar lists for our kids too – taking stock of what went well for them during the year and what didn’t, what new interests/abilities emerged in them, what their greatest joys and challenges were, things they need to do, and shared dreams for their year ahead. I’m not sure pen can be put to paper for a more important reason.