She was only four or five the first time I saw her grace a stage. With her blond hair pulled back tight she looked like a miniature of her daddy as she entered stage left and danced her way across in her little tu-tu.
On Saturday night she played an angel and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Her poise on stage and her beautiful voice were something to behold. Her eyes sparkled, her hair bounced and her feet flew as she performed. I couldn’t have been prouder of her if I’d given birth to her myself. She took my breath away.
One of the great blessings of moving back to this neighborhood has been seeing the kids who were just babies when we were first here (the oldest was 5) and tweenagers when we moved back three years ago suddenly blossom into these young people on the very verge of adulthood. To get to see what kind of people they are turning into. To continue to get to raise our girls with the families we started this whole parenthood journey with.
There is the one who mentors at the elementary school and whom I watched play with a group of third graders for over an hour at the pool last summer making a fool of himself the entire time while they egged him on. His sense of humor is dry like his mama’s and he is one of my fourth grader’s favorite people on earth.
There is the one heading off to college next year who has one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever seen. She’s weathered some hard stuff and never lost her smile for any length of time. She and her sister give great hugs and are so loving to one another. I hold them up as examples to my kids all the time.
There is the one who goes out of his way to say hello to me anytime he sees me out somewhere. Even if I don’t see him first. “Hello, Mrs. Whitlock!”, he says with a smile on his face.
There is the one who has seen some of her friends make bad choices yet has not compromised herself. She has a strong sense of justice tempered with a giant helping of mercy.
And there are the two I’m thinking of who made bracelets for a fund raiser last year in my honor. One of them also gave me her bunny at the beginning of my treatments last year and never fails to give me a huge hug when I see her.
Those are just the older kids in most of these families. I’ll save bragging on the rest for another time.
I feel so fortunate to have these kids in our lives and in the lives of our kids. Older role models are so important. They aren’t perfect. They are kids after all. They make mistakes just like they are supposed to. But their parents are doing a good, good job with them. I think perhaps one of the secrets of why it’s working is that we all know we can’t do it by ourselves. We need one another to encourage us when we get it right and to pull us back when we start running off the rails.
We stumble along, but we are making it through. Together.
And that makes all the difference.