Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Why can't we all just get along?"

When I was much younger - as in before the kids - I can remember assuming the hardest part of becoming a parent was getting used to caring for another human being. Trying to figure out how to rearrange my life to accomodate the baby, trying to wrap my head around the very idea of a baby, and of course the most infamous issue of all: lack of sleep. Of course all those things are legitimate hurdles, but as most of us do, I forgot that they are only babies for such a precious short time.

The other day I found myself comparing parenthood to that of getting a new puppy; in the beginning the puppy is little, cute and oh so lovable...and then they grow up. It sounded better than it looks here in writing, but my point is that once the baby is a baby no longer, what remains is a real person with real people problems. We are now way past the baby stage for all three kids. No more diaper changes, midnight feedings, teething pains or baby food. Gone are the cribs, the play pens, car seats and baby swings. How silly of me to assume this was the stage we could "sit back, relax, and raise the children." Haha, yes, I actually said those words once.

As the children grow and develop, I am continually amazed at what wonderful people in their own right they are becoming. I am thrilled to find that Morgan, who's personality has closely resembled her father's for so long, is a writer much like me! In fact, although she has never read any of my writing beyond my ever changing facebook statuses, her writing style is extremely similar to mine. Likewise, I never realized how funny Owen is. Of course every child is amusing and makes his parents laugh from an early age, but I'm talking about real comedic skill. That child is beginning to come out with lines with perfect delivery and timing that puts any comedian to shame. Life at the moment is a constant flow of preteen jargon, an ever changing line up of "best friends", daily accounts of playground shenanigans as told by the instigator himself, and random bursts of energy and song added by Rhian who refuses to be left out but is still living the pure, simple life of a happy 6 year old.

And so it was when this past week an innocent comment made by a curious and caring family friend sparked a conversation that changed a 12 year old girl's outlook on friendship for life. To make a long story short, she had been getting really close really quickly with one of the girls in her larger group of friends and it was slowly beginning to exclude the others. At this age girls, especially social girls like Morgan, tend to herd themselves into large groups, but pair into smaller ones of 2 or 3 from time to time. It may have to do with a project they are assigned in specific groups, the kids who happen to live nearby and are handy to hang out with over a weekend or holiday, or just the way a day happens to progress. But while birthday parties and dances bring out the group as a whole, sleepovers and after school phone conversations (or should I say skype conversations!) are usually done in small, select groups. I was just beginning to notice that everything seemed to be centred around this one girl all the time and never the others anymore, when I learned that she was telling the other girls to leave Morgan alone, that she was "her friend." I was appalled by this and upon bringing it up with Morgan, stunned to find out that not only has she been doing this for some time,trying to control everything Morgan did and said, she had also decided the day before that she was tired of Morgan now, and was moving on to someone else. Thus, a "Fairweather Friend."

It broke my heart to see Morgan's tears, to hear her wonder what she did wrong and then to have her ask, after I explained the concept of the fairweather friend to her, "but that's just not nice!" But you know, these are the lessons of life. As much as we want it to be so, not everyone will be nice to our kids all the time. She is the center of our world, but to the other kids on the school grounds she is but another kid to accept or discard at will. At 12, Morgan needs to learn to spot these kinds of friendships, to be strong enough to know that she is not at fault when someone else is dealing with their own issues, and that you cannot be friends with everybody. We talked about different kinds of friendships, from the acquaintances that come and go in life, to the ones that stay with you through thick and thin. The kind of friendships that can be sustained through all manner of changes, re locations, and through time itself are rare but the most precious of all. She has experienced this, knows its value and is happy to have it to lean on during times like these. After all, at this tender age, the world feels like its has come to a standstill and turned upside down!

As much as I enjoyed rocking my babies to sleep and holding their tiny hands while they learned to walk, I am now over joyed to be experiencing life through the eyes of my growing children. They are all unique, the lessons I have long since forgotten are new again, and I am thoroughly impressed at the people they are becoming.

Lets hope I can still say that in a few years when they are officially teenagers.

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