Well hello again! What did you get up to this weekend? We had a great family gathering yesterday, with my grandparents up visiting from South Carolina. My grandpa turns NINETY next month...! And we had my 15-year-old niece with us from Friday to Sunday, which was hilarious. I know that I once was a 15-year-old girl myself, but wow am I out of touch with teenagers. We had some very funny and some very serious conversations over the weekend. She educated me on a number of topics that I was completely ignorant on, and she asked a lot of questions on topics that, as an adult, I simply take for granted that they are known entities. I forgot that we become familiar with topics and develop understandings of certain things through asking questions when we're younger! We attempted to do things that a teenage girl would enjoy (and would also entertain a toddler & infant) and so spent Saturday exploring the big mall that is close to me. I think it's safe to say that a giant Forever 21 is still a bit of a mecca for teenage girls. At least that hasn't changed since I was a teen! (The slang sure has though - check out the crop top I found!)
Amidst the shopping, the eating, the jet skiing at the lake with friends, the family gathering yesterday, and the staying up late with laughter and conversations about boys and fashion and life, it struck me that one day, my own daughters will be the same age as my niece. They too will reach a point where they will be nearly grown, but not quite so. On the cusp of becoming women, yet still little girls in so many ways. Cautiously dipping their toes in the world around them, wide eyed and taking it all in, yet not quite ready to become an intrepid explorer of the foreign and unknown. It truly is a remarkable age - so innocent and full of wonder still, about to embark on that Homeric journey to becoming an adult.
It reminded me of the whole purpose of parenting. And not just parenting - I feel like this is the call of duty of ALL adults, be they aunts and uncles, or grandparents, or friends of families, or neighbors in a community. We are meant to help younger people become. I say 'become' because everyone will be something different, but they all will take a journey. Nobody becomes a good person solely on their own, with no intervention. We are meant to coach, and advise, and encourage, and support. We should be teaching those young people around us without frustration, guiding without annoyance, and aiding the future generations into deeper understandings of the world, and life, and good and bad.
I want my daughters, my nieces and nephews, their friends, even the kids who live on my street, to have good lives. I wish for them all to find their individual ways towards something that makes them happy, and also provides them with a good living so they can buy the house to live in and the car to take them places, they can travel to see the world, and learn about things outside of the place in which they grew up. This doesn't happen just by leaving your child - or your niece or nephew - to be influenced by the world around them. In fact, you are influencing someone even if you ignore them. Every action - or lack of action - that we take conveys a message to others around us. And to impressionable youth, I believe it has an even greater impact. A lack of engagement may cause them to think you don't care. Brushing them off when they ask questions may cause them to believe that they're not important. Joking about the things that they don't know may cause them to think they are not smart. We should be reminding ourselves every time we are around these kids that they are watching and absorbing absolutely everything - from a very, very young age! - whether we think so or not. And how we behave and act will influence their behaviors and actions later in life too.
Those teenage years are TOUGH. I do remember that much. And I also remember with great fondness the friends' parents who treated me with kindness and with respect (even at a young age!), and who always had time to help us understand something we might have been curious about, or struggling with. I'd like to think that when my girls are older, they will make friends who have parents who treat them the same. That my siblings will do the same for them. And I'd like to charge myself with the goal of being far more intentional with the time that I have with my nieces and nephews, and my own children, so that they see me as a safe haven, a go-to adult who says there are no stupid questions, someone who can help them navigate a confusing and-all-too-often hostile world.
"No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline." --Kofi Annan
I am grateful today for the time I get to spend now with my nieces and nephews. After missing so many of their early years whilst I was overseas, it feels a little like playing 'catch-up', but at least I live close enough now to have a chance to be someone who influences them in a positive way. May I long have the opportunity - and the wherewithal - to continue to do so. I pray that you will do the same for those around you!