Dee has a friend over; we couldn’t find anybody home to come and play with Tee, so she is on her own, flailing between desolation and incomprehensible fury, doing her best to be a royal pain in the ass, the way only little sisters can.
I’m on the periphery of the thing, downstairs, listening to the rise of voices, tempers, willing the three of them to work out their differences, poised to leap up the stairs if the frustration risks a turn to violence.
They are learning to be people. We, as parents, do our best to teach them how to do that. I, as a self-confessed control freak, try my best to stay in the shadows on days like today, trusting that the lessons I have been teaching for the past 7 or 5 years will be enough to lead my children onto the right little footpath through the overgrown garden of girlhood.
Later, when Tee has been banished, or when she has fled of her own accord, I hear Dee trying to boss her friend around. Ever the leader, ever the choreographer in the dance of her own experience, she doesn’t even ask her friends to follow; she simply assumes that they will. So certain she is that her way is the right way that it doesn’t even occur to her that there might be another.
Gosh, how I want to get up there and set her straight. Gosh, how I’m afraid that she will not have any friends if she doesn’t learn to be more kind, more open to suggestion, generous of spirit.
But I stay. I hold my breath, listen for the outcome. Her friend K stands her ground. She can be pretty bossy herself. I’m learning that most 7 year-olds can; it is a necessary part of their growth; a necessary lesson in their upbringing, albeit a lesson that we the parents don’t remember ever imparting.
I let out a sigh. The two of them will make it through this gunfight intact, and they will have learned something about getting along, about compromise, about picking battles.
Its amazing what our kids are capable of when we leave them to their own devices. I suspect that I’m going to have many opportunities to discover this in the years to come. It is my job to give them the tools. It is my job to encourage success, or at least to help them define it for themselves. It is my job to make them understand that if you want to get along in society, there are certain rules to be followed, certain expectations to be met. Surely, it is a choice; it will be their choice, one day. It is my job to help them know that their choice will have consequences. It’s not wrong to live on the outside of the ‘in’ crowd. Not wrong at all, but different.
It is my job to help them draw the map and navigate the sometimes turbulent waters. But they will be the captains of their own ships, the admirals of armadas. It is their job – their right and their priviledge – to choose who to become.
It is my job to let them.