Saturday, June 20, 2009

Life Stories

This is another milestone week for our family. Not only are we probably going to survive yet another 'last week of school', our firstborn has purchased her first car. After all those years driving that red and yellow plastic toddler car in circles around the driveway, propelled in Flintstones fashion with her chubby preschooler feet, she has finally moved up to the big time. Life for her moved from juice boxes and nap times to down payments and secured loans overnight. Or at least it feels like overnight to her two shell shocked parents.

This is when it's nice to have at least one child still walking the elementary school hallways. It keeps us from researching nursing homes for ourselves.

It tends to make me very reflective. Technically her childhood is just about over. Her grown up life story starts soon. The part where she gets to make decisions, mostly on her own, and live or die with the consequences, is just around our corner. I can sense it. I can't see it yet, but I can practically smell it. So the bulk of my influence in her life is already branded in her brain. Good and bad, it's there.

For many of the years that we've been raising kids I've carried around a motivating thought. When life stuff happened and we had to react, we had to demonstrate what kind of parents we would be, what kind of world citizens we would be, and what kind of example we would be to our children, I often thought to myself, "How will this play in my child's dorm room story?"

You know, those late nights, piled on the floor of a friend's dorm room, everyone telling how and where 'they grew up'? Telling what their family is like to these new strangers, soon to be best friends. Where they've lived, who their siblings are and what made their family tick. I know those stories are coming. Each of my children will have a different version, a film that plays through the lens of their personalities and birth order. Sam's will be much different from Meredith's just by the nature of the ten years that separate them.

But I had a lot of influence in how those movies played out. Jeff and I got to pick for them, in things as big as when and where we'd move and as small as who they invited to birthday parties. Knowing how college kids can be (I was one not that long ago) I am sure we will be blamed for many things. Some will have been our fault. Some we'll just have to be secure in our parenting and know we did our best. Hopefully, oh hopefully, there will be forgiveness and grace bestowed upon us eventually. Maybe it won't come until they have children themselves, but I keep telling Jeff, 'it will come'.

When childhood memories are thrown around in my own sibling group I have a trunk load to share. But sometimes I wonder how my brain decided to pick this random group. Why do I remember some insignificant events in our upbringing and have no recollection of some of the big moments. Why does my brother remember one specific night in our family's life and I can't remember much of that entire year? What does this mean to my children's memories?

I assume they will store away the stock family stories that seem to be told on an annual basis. The time Isaac got two sets of stitches in his forehead within the same month, just after his third birthday. The time Michael broke his leg on the last day of school one year and then broke his arm three months later on the first day of the new school year. The time Sam surprised us all and just rode off on his new bike sans training wheels, as we all gathered around with video cameras and encouragement, expecting to watch him spend the entire morning learning this new skill. But beyond the stock family stories, what do they carry?

I have made peace with the fact I may never know. I will not be gathered around those pizzas with them as their life stories spill out. I will not be able to confirm or deny the truth to their tales. Resting in the confidence that we did the best we could with what we were given, I will be at home, maybe around a much smaller pizza, shared with their dad.

But I will still thinking about them.

Still loving them.

And still praying that what I've contributed so far to their journey is somehow good enough.

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