Monday, March 25, 2013

How Does Your Family Grow?

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." ~ Flannery O'Connor

So, we've been experiencing a few growing pains around here. Not literally. Don't panic. We haven't adopted anymore dogs or cats or guinea pigs or Marines.

But we've been growing within our family.

Gracey is quite a young lady who is starting to think about all those important decisions ahead of her: driving, college, goals for her life. And it's really scary! She and I have had some really big discussions about what would work best for her and what wouldn't. But I'm proud of the maturity she is showing as she works through these "problems" in her head and heart.

Sadie is a burgeoning teenager. I'm not really sure what to add to that sentence that can't be read into it at a base level. She is maneuvering middle school, starting to exhibit the normal signs of teenage angst (and argument) and working her fanny off to juggle all the balls a college preparatory education throws at her. It's been a tad challenging, but I think she is enjoying getting out there and testing the waters of this adolescent stuff.

However, the biggest surprise for me has been the growing pains we've experienced with Billy. Who knew there would be challenges with a 26 year old!? (About now he is possibly ready to cuss me. I'm taking some serious chances here.)  I firmly believe that the very best thing he ever did was go into the military. He gained some life skills, knowledge, maturity and experiences that will serve him SO well the rest of his life.

And yet, I forget that when he left for that adventure, he wasn't equipped with the family foundation his sisters have had in their much shorter lives. He didn't have the core values and emotional security they are completely unaware they possess. 

Don't get me wrong. Billy gained an amazing amount of knowledge and social skills. His time at the children's home was instrumental in providing him with all the things he cerebrally needed to succeed. We talk about that frequently because, without a doubt, it was his saving grace. He needed that structure that he learned in a loving, safe environment. But that still wasn't a family. The kind that has to love you to infinity (and beyyyoooonnnnd). 

What about the expectations that exist within a family? What about the realization that every action is a direct reflection on those who raised you? What about the ripple effect that comes with making a choice and within a few short weeks, days, hours - or in Billy's case MINUTES - the choice is presented to your family by someone other than you?

Or how about the fact that anyone you pick to be in your circle of influence must somehow "match up" with the inner circle of your family?

Billy has had to learn all of these things in the last 6 months. 

Don't misunderstand! He hasn't wound up in jail, made any life altering decisions, done anything wrong AT ALL! Quite the opposite, in fact, he's got almost straight A's in his college courses. He is working 3 days a week and making his employer proud with a great work ethic. He's found a core group of friends (some new, some childhood friends) whom he spends his spare time around.  He's doing so many things RIGHT. It's great! And we are unbelievably proud of him.

But not 1 but 2 of his college professors are people we know well. His employers are good friends of ours. His landlords know some of our very dear friends. See? No matter where he turns, there we are!

It's just the day to day stuff that has been tough to work through. When do you introduce a new girl to the family? How many new girls should one guy have in a month? Do you tell your parents every time you are going to see a movie, take a walk, eat a brownie, wipe your rear?  Or do you just touch base with them once a week, day, hour, minute? What starting criteria do you use for your friendships or more-than-friendships and what effect with those relationships have on your family?

You'd be surprised how much of that comes into play in a family. I'm sure some of you are sitting here reading this thinking "Who the heck cares? It's his life! He's an adult!"  But I bet most of you fall into 2 categories: 

Some of you never really stopped and thought about it because you have a close knit family who is incorporated into your life completely.  

And some of you don't have a close knit family at all, therefore none of that really does matter.

It's been so interesting to work through this. And by interesting, I mean gut wrenching and frustrating and difficult. Billy wants to meet our (read probably my) expectations and he yearns for universal approval. He wants us to accept his decisions as he makes them because he is an adult. We (read I) want him to operate within the boundaries of our familial expectations and not have to give my approval just because he wants it. We (I) want to accept his decisions because he makes the ones I consider right not just because he wants that approval.

Ok. Fine. I want it my way. (That's right, Burger King, I am on your side...)  And he wants it his way.  So meeting in the middle has been interesting. Helping him learn how family works and why LOVE is not the same as blanket approval is the stuff I'm sure a great book could be built upon.

There have been some long talks, plenty of tears (mostly mine) and a bazillion texts between him, me, Kerry... and any combination of the 3.

So..if you were curious about what we've been doing:  we've been growing into a full-blown family.

And you know what? It's worth it.  Every text. Every phone call. Every tear.

Totally worth it.


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