WHACK! Jr. just hit your friend's child. "NO, Jr.! No! No!" Tears. Hugs. And play resumes.
That was when Jr. was 3... and 5. But then one day you blink and Jr.'s 7, then 9, then 11, then 13.
We all remember the transition (gradual, and more often then not awkward and turbulent) that we (that is our parents) made as we transitioned from kids, to children, to something confusing, and finally into adults. Yet from cradle to cars (keys, jobs, weddings, what-have-you) there are countless steps and countless changes which constantly keep us on our toes and more often than not leave us marveling.
I'm no parent (though I have experienced my own), but I had just such a moment the other day- when I realized someone wasn't so little any more.
My little sister is every bit the seven year old. She says the funniest things. Last month it was, "Linda, you're a piece of WORK!" (Yes, she said that, with admiration lighting up her eyes. We explained to her what that phrase meant- and she was old enough to laugh at herself.) Then just the other day (perhaps influenced by the stories of Abraham and Issac's lies about their so-called "sisters"), "The Egyptians would want to marry you, you're so beautiful!"
Anyway, we had a less than pleasant interaction when she did something at the dinner table and I cried out, "That's MEAN!" The situation was resolved between us (or so I thought), but then 12 hours later she came up to me and said, "When you said that in front of everyone, it hurt my feelings."
The truth of her statement went to my heart. Here she had a problem with me and she was doing what she was supposed to do- coming to me privately and talking to me about it. While I (as if she was still three) had called her out on her issue publicly.
When did that happen? When did she stop being three? Here is my nearly eight year old sister (just a few short years away from puberty) becoming, though so far from an adult, fully an individual- and my sister twice over in the Lord. I owe her the same courtesy I do everyone- no less because I held her as a newborn and changed her diaper and still have to remind her she doesn't always know what she's talking about (and I still have to put her food into the microwave for her because she can't reach) and because she still wants me to do good-night stories with her teddy-bear.
I don't know how one deals with the foolishness and ignorance of youth- even while giving them the respect and entrusting them with the responsibility which is the very thing which inspires them to grow. I guess it's the age-old question. I'm asking it already. My parents asked it. And their parents. Nobody seems to have the answer- or to have done it perfectly- but we're growing up anyway.