This photo showed up in my Facebook memories yesterday.
I happened to be standing in line to register this girl for high school.
The summer this was taken is so clear in my mind. She had two older brothers and a baby sister. The boys needed a lot of wrangling and the baby…well, was the baby.
We went to the local pool every day. Every day for the first two weeks of summer, her brothers roared down the giant tube slide.
Every day for two weeks, she begged me to walk her to the top so she could slide, too.
Every day for two weeks, I would hike up the 5,942 (possible exaggeration) steps with her, the baby strapped to my
sweaty back fat back.
Every day for two weeks, when her turn would arrive, she would look into the dark tunnel of terror, turn on her heels, defeated, and we would slink back down the 5,942 steps.
On the 14th day, she actually stepped in and sat down. I saw her head turn to me, eyes filling with tears, and before she could climb out, I said, “You’ve got this, kid,” and I pushed her.
I know, I know. I’m an asshole. All the way down the steps, I argued with myself.
“If she wasn’t ready, I shouldn’t have pushed her,” vs. “She was ready, she just didn’t know it.”
“Everyone on the planet just saw my assholery and they are totally judging me,” vs. “She cannot go through life watching from the sidelines.”
But, here’s the thing. By the time I met her at the bottom, she marched passed me, climbed the 5,942 steps by herself, and proceeded to rock that slide a thousand more times before summer’s end.
As the third child, life is fast. There isn’t much time to stand still. We celebrate and move on to the next thing. There is always the next thing. When you are in a large family, the one mistake you will not make is thinking you are the center of the universe. “You finally tied your shoes? YAY! Now, everyone in the van- MOVE!”
She spent her childhood being dragged to her brother’s games/events. When she was old enough, she joined their sports- baseball, basketball, soccer. Even though it was her first basket, her first goal, the rest of us had already sat through so.many.games.already. Following in our sport footsteps allowed all of us to pass our expertise and experiences to her. (She must have been thrilled!)
But in 6th grade, she joined her middle school volleyball team. None of us had ever played volleyball. None of us could offer tips or share our volleyball experiences. I think she loves volleyball so much because she finally has something that is just hers. No hand-me-down equipment. No hand-me-down advice. It’s just hers.
So, here we are. High school. She doesn’t need me to push her anymore- she does it all by herself. She has been in the high school so many times for her brother’s events. Next week, she’ll walk through the doors to begin her own adventure. Even though she wears mascara now, I’ll still see that determined little girl with her lopsided goggles marching away from me. “You’ve got this, kid.”