When you become a parent, people tell you about the mistakes you will make about your first kid… It’s even a running joke in just about every parenting circle. You go to the doctor/urgent care/ER for everything with the first; by the fourth, you wait till the doctor is open, and try to consult over the phone. With the first, you worry about their friends, influences, sleeping habits, eating habits, etc etc etc. By the fourth, you figure they’ll figure it out and just try to provide a bit of a cushion when they need one.
Unfortunately for my “first” kid – she’s also my step-kid, which means I had her ½ time and was quite able to mess up just fine in that time, on top of a longer learning curve. On Saturday, we said “see you later” to Kiddok, as she and her mom are off to look at colleges on the West Coast. On the cusp of her going off to college, I’m dedicating this post to her, and some of the lessons she’s given me.
1. Lesson 1 – pushing her too hard when she’s not loving what she’s doing.
She played softball, and mostly liked it. Kiddok was even quite good at it, when she wanted to be. But as it got more competitive, it wasn’t the environment she wanted. (Why don’t they have the equivalent of work leagues for kids in high school as much?… not for varsity teams, but just to play – but that’s another day’s blog). When I thought she wasn’t performing her best that day, I’d get frustrated that she’d just blow off the learning. In reality, she was blowing me off because I forgot my role as (step) parent. Easy role – hard to remember. Freaking support her. Cheer her on. Encourage without demanding or coaching (unless you are the coach). Remember she’s doing her best that day, so just back off.
Now that she’s found drama (In this case, I mean the drama club/atmosphere, not girl drama) – everyone is happier. The thrill of opening day is evident on her face! She loves her independent music and concerts, and really just enjoys music.
2. Lesson 2 – Honoring the introvert
I am the opposite of an introvert. I love talking to people, being around them, and so on (except when they are idiots, but another blog). Kiddok is an introvert. Being around people wears her out, even when she loves them. (Her sisters might be prime examples of this, and they can wear out extroverts, so God Bless Kiddok for still dealing with them). I often have no idea how people can wear you down. I don’t get it, so working to honor that is hard for me.
We work to find that happy medium with Kiddok when we have lots of people over. How long can she be in her room vs. how long she’s out with folks? Does it change when it’s family? How about when her sisters are loud? How about when it’s not lots of people just her abundantly noisy sisters?
It’s possible to hide behind the introvert-ness to get out doing stuff that’s less than fun. We all know that… So finding that happy medium, it’s a never ending cycle.
3. Lesson 3 – Compassion comes from all corners
If you asked me to describe Kiddok – compassion would be in the top 5 attributes. Kiddok embodies the definition of compassion in ways that lots of Christians, adults, elderly, priests, and others miss. I think this compassion comes from her love of all things worldly. No – not that worldly. Not the kind where she collects crap just to have it, but where she insists on understanding the existing atmosphere we all live in. Want to understand the Ukraine crises, ask her. Israel? She’s got it covered. What’s happening in the political world – go ask her.
Where was I? Right – her compassion. Because she can see and understand the world, she sees the injustices and cares deeply about fixing them. For Father’s Day, she was trying to donate to a charity on behalf of her dad. She named some I’d never heard of, and settled on one closer to his heart.
I’ve seen her cry for other’s hurting. I’ve seen her laugh for other’s joy. She’s my reminder every day that I’ve a long way to go to match her heart. I hope the other 3 glean some of that from her.
4. Lesson 4 – Educating yourself is not done solely in school
As seen above, Kiddok is constantly educating herself. Her nose is in a book or an online news forum or in front of MSNBC (sometimes simultaneously). She’s not afraid to ask questions, even now, she’ll ask me what a word means, or ask her dad about a stat in sports. Her spongy-mind is constantly taking in the world around her, processing it, and going forward. This education is definitely a leading factor in her compassion in the world. I’m interested and excited to see which causes she champions as she moves forward in life, but something tells me it will involve education, women, equal rights. (Just a guess, of course!)
5. Lesson 5 – Our family is incomplete without her
Kiddok is our first born (even if she’s not my first born biologically speaking). She’s the oldest that the littles just adore. Even when the 3 littles are driving her nuts (sometimes intentionally, other times by just being 7, 3, and 1), they adore her. Every time Bits sees her for the first time in a few hours or days, she will take off running at her for a hug (God help the person or baby gate who gets between them!). Peanut loves when Kiddok can come to her sporting or other events. Bug loves “her Kiddok”. All of the girls learned her name shortly behind (or in the case of Bits) in front of Momma.
Just because Kiddok is 1/6th of our family, and not ½ or 1/3, it still leaves a gaping hole in our family when she’s gone.
As she’s off deciding where to take her next steps, I’m ever so grateful we live in this age of technology. We can Skype or FaceTime with her wherever she goes off to school. If she gets to study in Europe (current plan) for a semester or year abroad, we can still see her. She can watch her sisters get bigger. They can email or text her, and hopefully she’ll email and text us back regularly. We’re hopeful her best attributes can still be shared with the littles as they grow into not so littles.
I don’t think my Kiddok is perfect, but I don’t think there’s anything to gain by calling our her imperfections in public. (and her list of mine could be longer than I’d like to see). I do think there’s plenty to gain by learning from our kids, and calling out in public their good points. Kiddok – we have our differences, but you are an amazing, wonderful, compassionate kid who we love, even when you don’t feel it.
All pictures by Megan Stans of Digitialbean Photography LLC.