The Chapter of the In-Between

July 10, 2014 — 37 Comments

Last week, a somber occurrence took place at the Smith House.

Sarah grew up.

Now I understand that growing up generally consists of a process– a process made up of life’s subtle shadings that shift slowly from moment to moment, year to year, and season to season. But not in this case. In this case, the growing up happened in just a matter of moments.

And just what could have possibly precipitated this remarkable and particular change? What was the mysterious tipping point that moved my darling daughter past childhood into adulthood?

Quite simply, it was The Talk.

No, not that Talk. That Talk occurred many years ago. This was the other Talk; the Talk about . . . money.

Over the years, Sarah has always earned an allowance and has always managed her money well—giving some, saving some, spending some. But now she is at a point where her financial picture is changing in significant ways.

For one thing, she received many generous graduation gifts from many generous friends (including some of our wonderful Smithellaneous readers), and she realizes the importance of managing those gifts wisely. Also, she just started a full-time job at Food Lion and so she will be bringing home a bigger paycheck than she’s ever earned in the past.

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On the other hand, she’s about to start college and buy a car, so expenses are going to start rising, right along with the increased income.

With all that in mind, she and Steve and I figured we’d better get ahead of the game and sit down together to make some plans.

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We got started by discussing how much she needs to put into savings (from gift money and summer work money) so that when college starts, she’ll be able to work fewer hours and concentrate on her studies.  We talked about all the expenses that will come with a car–insurance, gas costs, the price cost of tires and repairs.

She also just got her first smart phone (after being content with an old-fashioned, non-smart phone for five years) and so we calculated into her expenses what that monthly fee will be. She thought that it would be a good time for to open her own checking account and so she and Steve have plans to go and get that done.

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With all those serious subjects on the table (both literally and figuratively) Steve still couldn’t keep himself from making at least one funny face. (Can you see where Nathan and Noah get their ham qualities from?)

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As the two of them continued to talk and flip through papers and enter mysterious numbers into the calculator, I got the distinct feeling that my brain needed a break from those computational conversations.  (We all know that math and I are not the best of friends)

And so I went out to the front porch for a few breaths of sweet evening air and a brief concert of sweet evening sounds. Just as I figured it was time to turn around and head back inside, I happened to glance through the front window where I witnessed something invisible to my eyes, viewable only to my heart.

In that one moment, in that one look, I saw the pages of the season turn. I saw the sweet, serene, simplicity of Sarah’s childhood gather itself into a small, fragile bundle and whirl its way out through the window pane, out into the night, out of sight.

At about the same time, I saw the weight of adulthood–its responsibilities, its burdens, its obligations–make its appearance and wend its way through the same window to take up residence on the small shoulders of my girl.

In that briefest of moments, I saw my child become an adult.5-IMG_0332

As I stood pondering it all in the evening’s silence, I well understood that the transition was an exciting one for Sarah–putting away childhood, embracing adulthood.  I also understood though, that it wasn’t completely without anxiety. In fact, during one part of the earlier conversation with Steve, when he was gently laying out all the things that would be required of her, I saw tiny tears gather in the corners of her eyes. I didn’t say a word—I just looked down at the table to hide my own tears, even as a part of me longed for earlier, simpler days.

That longing came back to me even more strongly the morning after our conversation when I went downstairs at 4:30 a.m. to take Sarah to work. As I walked quietly around the corner into the kitchen, I found her sitting at the table, wearing her blue polyester work shirt and spooning Cheerios into her mouth. Her eyes were glazed with fatigue, her body weary from the hours spent on her feet the day before.

As soon as I saw her I stopped short and thought, “This is it. This is real. This is my child who has stepped over the threshold and will never, ever step back.  She has gone from wearing cute school clothes and carrying a colorful book bag  to this . . . the trappings, the wrappings of a working woman.

A working woman making her breakfast, packing her lunch, and walking out into the pre-dawn of a new day—taking another step away from what was and taking another step forward into the beginning of what is yet to be.

I was (and am) so very proud of her, so very proud of the way she is writing this chapter of the in-between. 

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37 responses to The Chapter of the In-Between

  1. Beautifully and poignantly written. How special it is for your writing to capture and record these memories and milestones of Sarah’s life. And how incredible for her to have parents who have been there every step of the way, even helping her transition to the adult world through help figuring out things like finances. This is a gift of love invested in your daughter that many don’t have. She has grown up surrounded by such love, which will carry her all her life.

  2. Wow. What a poigniant post. And what a transition for Sarah to know that what is to be is dependant on me. Summed up its called responsibilty. But yet don’t we all live in that balance of being carefree or controled? I’m still learning and trying not to lose childlikeness in the face of adult pressures. And I’m thankful for what I’ve learned from you and Steve-the example you have been. That talk us coming very soon for us also with our Caleb, too.

    • Randy,

      Thanks for your words of encouragement to Steve and me. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and gets a little more challenging the closer our kids get to flying from the next because there is that fragile dance between giving advice and backing away. Caleb is in such good hands with you and Deb–the three of you make me smile!

  3. Becky,
    What a beautiful, sweet, but a little bit heartbreaking post. Your Sarah is indeed a steel beam of strength, she has been through so much, along with you, Steve and Nathan, but has come out shining on the other side. I have no doubt that she will be a success in whatever she attempts. It is true, we moms need to be needed and contrary to what one might believe they still need you, just in a different way. My son is in the midst of buying another house, a bigger one for his expanding family, he is so meticulous about his finances, although he has a really good job, he is one big ball of stress (along with his mama and daddy). So I am doing what I do best, stress right along with him. They may grown up, but we will always be mama. Much love to you as you watch this journey unfold for sweet Sarah. I know you will feel every emotion that she does, because that is what we mamas do best. God bless you on this journey. by the way, I agree, I love love love your writing and would love you to write a book. Think about it.

    • Gail,

      So true what you said . . . they may grow up but we will always be mama. Underneath the (understandable) worry, you must be so excited to see your son’s living quarters expand along with his family. I know you’re proud of him!

  4. I never really had that talk with my parents. I moved out on my own for the first tine in 1992. I surprised my parents one day by saying I was moving out at 27. I did pretty well on my own back then. Afforded the apartment and utilities with no problem. I decided to move back home in 1993. In 2010, I was forced to move out on my own. In 2011, I moved in with some friends for a year. I have been back on my own for nearly two years. You would not believe that amount of people who thought I would not make it on my own. Here, I am in 2014, I am making it on my own!!! I live by myself and have a fulltime job. Life is great!!! :)

    • Kristi,

      Congratulations to you for persevering through some difficult times; I am so proud of you for what you’ve accomplished! You are a perfect example of the fact that there is not any one “right” timetable that everyone has to follow. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. It is so sad and exciting all at one time. Sarah has traveled a very hard road at times and has grown into a lovely young lady. I envy you this ‘in-between’. This is not how it turned out for my daughter. I’m proud of everything she accomplishes but sometimes my mother’s heart wishes for what could have been. Sarah has surpassed all that could have been and she is so blessed. I’m crying happy tears for the little girl who once was so sick and became such an amazing young woman. I’ll continue to pray for her future adventures to be as successful and filled with happiness as they can be.

    • Bev,

      YOU are an inspiration to me with your unconditional love for your daughter and your pride in who she is–even if it might not be exactly who you had pictured. You are a perfect example of doing what mama’s
      do. . . and that is to love.

      I so appreciate your words of encouragement to Sarah and our family during these times of transition. It’s an interesting journey!

  6. Your words wrap around my heart Becky. I know those feelings. I’ve stood outside that window. Bless you for being brave and embracing these moments knowing what they mean to Sarah and her future. I love you both.

  7. Tiffany Hawkins July 11, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I love reading about Sarah, and how you handle everything… It helps me as my journey is a couple of years behind you with Abby… She is volunteering this summer, since she is not 16, but already talking about having a job next summer ,since she will be 16… My parents did the same thing with me and money, and steered me down the road of responsible finance…which is So important!! I am trying to do that same thing with Abby!! Good luck to Sarah in her new full time job, and getting a car… so exciting, but so daunting! Hugs to everyone!!!

    • Tiffany,

      The most helpful thing about this kid-raising journey is that the changes take place fairly gradually and you kind of know what each new chapter will consist of. That doesn’t really make the whole process any easier but at least we sort of know what to expect.

      I’m glad Sarah’s story has been helpful to you–I always love talking to people who are a chapter or two ahead of me so I can glean some wisdom.

      Hope you all are having a great summer!

  8. Oh so true! And oh so hard! My Zach did this last year. While he is loving it! I’m still missing the good old days of childhood. May God bless her journey into adulthood.

    • Catherine,

      I know–it’s not an easy transition, is it? Glad Zach is loving this new chapter.

      Thanks again for making the time to come to Sarah’s graduation party; that was so sweet of you guys to do that!

  9. What a lovely post. What a magical time in Sarah’s life, to make this transition so gracefully with the support of such a loving family! She can’t help but succeed in everything she tries.

    I do hope you will publish a collection of your writing, Becky – whether it’s a complete compilation of your posts here, or just selected writings, please do it and let us know how to buy it!

  10. Sarah is such a lucky girl to have parents that are willing to guide her yet LET her grow up. She will do just fine.
    I remember feeling exactly the same as you at that stage in my children’s lives. And I also remember mourning the loss of their childhood and of my babies. I thought, at the time, that they wouldn’t need me anymore. Boy, was I ever wrong. :) To this day, hubby and I are still the ones that they turn to first for help or advice or a hug.

    • LeeAnne,

      I love your reminder that eighteen years old doesn’t mean that our kids stop needing us. It makes my heart happy when Nathan calls home for advice on something, or when Sarah asks for help. We mamas need to be needed, don’t we?

  11. Oh Becky, you made me cry again….my kids are so far away and I long for the days when I could watch over them and help them every step of the way..you and Steve have done a wonderful job with your kids, while the burden of adulthood may seem overwhelming at times, Sarah has a strong foundation and a strong support system and like everything else in her life, she will take it all in stride and handle it….

    • Dale,

      I know we will always miss those younger days when our children looked to us for just about everything. And it makes their growing up harder still when they move far from home. But I’m finding many joys in being a mom of an adult child–just different sorts of joys! Hope your kids can come for a visit soon.

      • Actually my son is here now, has been for the last 2 weeks and then we’ll make the trip back to Kansas at the end of the month to bring him back to school and I’ll get to spend about a week with my daughter in KC as well, just dreading that return solo trip to NC!

  12. …And this post is what I love about your writing. Every once in a while you throw one of these gems in the bucket and we all rejoice.
    Sarah is such a gentle soul and yet she has the quiet strength of a steel beam. She will do well with such loving parents to support her. I have one just like her, he needed support, encouragement, and the expectation of ‘you can do it!’ all rolled up into a ball. Given such a firm base, children like these have the capability to go out and make a difference, because of their sensitivity.

    • Lesley,

      Thanks so much for your encouragement; these personal essay type writings are some of my favorite kinds of posts to write except they take about 5 times longer than the other ones so it’s a bit harder to get them done.

      I love the line, “Quiet strength of a steel beam.” How true that is. Beams are quiet (oh so very quiet) but their strength is amazing. Sarah, my steel beam daughter!

      Sounds like you piloted your son through his own in between season with great love and wisdom. How fabulous to see our children fly!

  13. You and Steve have so many, many reasons to be very proud of Sarah. The greatest gift you are giving her is the recognition of her maturity. She will always be in my prayers.

  14. wow… that’s a very early hour to be heading to work.

    • Mrs. Pam,

      Thankfully she only has to work that early shift a couple of times a month. Her usual hours are 8 to 4:30 with a few evening shifts thrown in there, too.

  15. Oh, it is a heavy load she now will carry but she will not carry it alone. She has the best family to help her with all the new decisions and disappointments and to rejoice with her in all the many, many happy moments of great accomplishments. I have always said I wished my two girls were back in highchairs and playpens and the only great decision of the day was which book to read. Our adult children’s decisions are never easy and we pray and worry through each with them. We always will. However, oh how lucky we are if we are allowed the privilege to see them through each and every one of those adult days because we have the chance to see the person that little child has become.

    I just went through many anxious days awaiting news of a job promotion and change for my younger daughter – she received that job – now I pray she can be so very successful in this new and somewhat scary challenge. It was also so good to see her older sister guide her through the process of interviews, portfolios and resumes. To see both your children as adults is a complete thrill and to watch their relationship mature to that level is wonderful. Gone are the days of arguments over a doll and now there is nothing but support for each other and their goals in life. Sarah has one of the best, Nathan. He will be her shield.

    • Mary,

      Big congratulations to your daughter; I know all three of you breathed a huge sigh of relief when you got the news!. And I loved the word picture you painted of your older daughter helping the younger one. It reminded me of the times when Nathan and Meagan have sat with Sarah and given advice and answered her questions. There have been few greater joys in my life as a parent than to sit in the corner of the room and just listen to that sort of conversation. I know you know that feeling!

      Keep me in touch with how your daughter’s job goes!

  16. Could you write your book now? Your writing is so wonderful. Love you Smiths!

Thanks for commenting; I love hearing what you have to say.