Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dear Third Grade

Dear third grade, 

Thank you so much for all you’ve given my girls this year. 

Thank you for showing Claire that you can always make new friendships (even when all of your besties end up in another class). Thank you for giving her a friend that loves her unconditionally — not despite her quirks, but because of them. Thank you for putting a spotlight on areas of Claire’s life (focus and organization) that need additional attention. And thank you SO much for giving her the voice and backbone to stand up for the vulnerable — humans, animals and the earth. Our world needs an advocate like her. 

Thank you for giving Grace a year full of ups and downs — allowing her to strengthen her resiliency and discover she's tougher than she thought. Thank you for showing her what true friendship looks like (and what it doesn’t). Thank you for giving her confidence in academics and reminding her what a smart cookie she is, and a special thanks for giving her a year of extracurriculars where she found passion, determination and leadership. I have no doubt the world will be a better place with Grace at the helm. 

My girls are leaving the third grade feeling more certain about who they are as humans, knowing the love of a good friend and, of course, more educated. 

Third grade, it was great knowing ya. Fourth grade, here they come!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Unbreakable Bonds

I have a fairly big family. Five brothers and sisters, four in-laws, 10 nieces and nephews. And now that my older sister moved back to town, we are all living in the same city. We get together often for holidays, birthdays and special events. When we go trick-or-treating, we all go together and take up half the street as we knock on doors. We have our share of familial challenges (trust me), but we’re pretty close-knit most of the time. 

One of my favorite parts of this big family is watching the friendships between the cousins grow. Cousins play such a unique role in a kid’s life. They aren’t so ever-present to get the sibling-treatment (bickering, rivalry, insult-slinging), but they are present for so many of the milestones, both big and small. They are there when you deliver your lines at the school play, cheering you on when you’re up to bat, patting you on the back after you miss that basket. They are there for every single birthday, annual camping trips and when your Grandpa gets sick and dies. They are there for the best and worst moments of life — forging this unbreakable bond. 

We recently went to my niece’s birthday party and Claire, who has been besties with her since they were toddling, felt a bit threatened by a friend who was also invited to the birthday. She pulled me into the bathroom to tell me how she felt like she was being replaced by this girl — “this outsider.” This is what I told her: 

For both of you, friends will come and friends will go. New friends will come. Some will be best friends. But those friendships don’t lessen what you have with each other. What you have is deep and unbreakable — a bond you’ve been forging since you were babies. A bond that will last your lifetime. 

I saw the relief wash over her. And I was taken by surprise at how deeply I felt those words. I’ve always known these cousins would have a close connection, but in that moment I pictured their future selves. As teenagers and 20-somethings. 30-somethings with kids of their own. Being there for each other as they lose their parents/aunts and uncles. It occurred to me that after I’m gone, they’ll be there together, reminiscing about long-forgotten games of hide-and-seek, Christmas at Grandma’s, Easter egg hunts and sleepovers. They’ll have the “remember when” moments and laugh until they can’t breathe. When the tears are flowing, they’ll give that long hug that says “I know. I got you.” 

What a beautiful gift for them — and me. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Explorers' Club: An Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about our Explorers' Club, so let me recap. It’s not an official club or anything — it’s some variation of my family members who enjoy going out into the world and trying to discover something wonderful about it. 

I say some variation of family members because while it started as a family endeavor, sometimes it’s just Claire and I. Or just the girls and I. Or sometimes it’s all five of us. It all depends on availability and willingness (more on this later). 

The club first started when the girls were about three or four, and we found a little-known trail that crossed a creek and under a bridge and through a tunnel of trees. (Turns out it’s a relatively well-known trail — maybe the most well-known trail in town — but seven years ago, it was new to us.) This adventure sparked a desire to find more special places and see things we never knew existed in our little city.  

So, between all of us, we’ve explored nearly all of the public trails and parks. And while these adventures used to be highly anticipated, my 9-year-old (going on 13), has recently been resisting. “Ugh, are we just going to like walk again??” She said the word “walk” like it’s the most boring and dull thing she could imagine. 

It was this same attitude that she brought with her on a recent trip to a new trail. She complained in the car, after she got out of the car and for the entire first 10 minutes of the adventure. Then, we hit the area of the trail that runs along water. There were rocks to be thrown, a couple of small waterfalls, dead fish lying about, froglets hopping — and her bad mood suddenly disappeared. 

For the next 45 minutes, I had my explorers' club back. It. Was. Awesome. I know it won’t always end like that — some of the adventures will be “like just a walk.” But my hope is that when they’re grown, they’ll discover the seeds I planted when they were young. There is joy and excitement around you all the time — sometimes where you least expect it. If you’re looking for it and being grateful for the wonders of the world (both big and small), you’ll always find happiness.