I would be lying if I said our family hasn't dealt with a certain degree of growing pains since we added our fourth child to the family in February of this year. We have all had our ups and downs and personal struggles that come as a result of big life changes. It has been no different for Grace.
This little girl has had her share of struggles. Growing up is so hard. Becoming a big sister for the first time is very hard. Sharing mom, sharing "girl" things, and being one of four can be a bit much for her at times. Then there are other times when it is just us girls, walking to the playground and I ask her how she feels about being a big sister. She proceeds to tell me all about how great it is, how she loves to read books to Hannah (and that she's got the latest one we brought home from the library memorized so she can read it to Hannah on demand, but would I please read the other one so she can read it to her later tonight? She doesn't know that one yet....). She tells me how she likes to hold her hand and play kitchen with her and baby dolls. My heart warms when she offers to push Hannah on the swings or show her how to climb just so up to the slides. These moments are the glue that hold us together. The ones the bring the smiles to our faces. Because there are tears, too. Tears that mourn the loss of being the baby of the family, that grieve the duties of being a big girl, and tears that beg for just one more solid moment of mama's attention before it is ripped angrily from her by another child in need of the same level of attention. There are growing pains, but the growth, while painful, is good and so worth it.
This summer I had the opportunity to enroll Grace in her first ballet class. It is something she has always wanted to do. There was a short 6 week summer session at a school very near our home. It was just our thing on Saturday mornings while everyone else stayed behind. She needed this. Oh, how she needed this and oh, how I needed it as her Mama to see a little deeper into her needs. You see, our little girl is so painfully shy. It hurts kind of shy. And she is a twin. A twin who has never had the need (nor desire) to do anything separate from her twin brother. They are peas in a pod. A package deal. Jack 'n Jill. They do it all together. That is, till we signed Grace up for ballet.
I loved watching her delight in this little class. So reserved, yet relishing it all at once. I watched her slowly start to bloom and burst out of her shell. We began the class without her ability to separate from me. I participated in all of the classes by her side. By the fifth week she told me I could sit along the studio wall to watch, which I did...for about fifteen minutes of the class, and then she returned to me and needed me to come back out onto the dance floor with her. The sixth and final week I thought perhaps I'd get to watch from the wall, but when we arrived, she clung to my hand and needed me right there. About ten minutes into the class, I was following her around the dance floor for one exercise and trying to lag a bit behind her. She stopped what she was doing and came to me. I thought she was coming to drag me up closer to her, but no, instead she whispered sweetly in my ear, "you can go sit over there." And I did. I sat against that wall till they took their final goodbye curtsy. And I loved every minute of it. This little ballerina girl, feeling so brave, and taking on something so hard for her. As we exit the class each week the girls are asked to shake the teacher's hand and say, "Thank you for teaching me." Each week I was able to get her to shake hands, but the speaking part was another matter. This sixth week no prompting was needed. She reached that hand out and bravely said, "Thank you for teaching me!" Her teacher was so proud and swept her up into a giant hug. I got to spend six weeks watching little girl dreams come true in pink leotards and leather ballet slippers with tight hair buns and tip toe prancing. I got to watch her grow.
It became incredibly clear to us that the only way Grace will overcome any of her shyness is to continue to work through it. We realized we need to keep her enrolled in something at all times (anything that suits her fancy at this point), no matter how difficult or challenging it may be for us, as her parents. We have a big year ahead of us, this little ballerina and I. She will begin Pre-K. She wants so hard to please and do things right, she is hesitant often to try. School is going to stretch her as we learn together that pencils have erasers because we all make mistakes. She is enrolled in the Pre-K class at our homeschool co-op we attend. Not only will she conquer the exact same memory work her older brother is tackling, she will give a "presentation" to her class each week on various topics. I have yet to introduce the idea of "show and tell" to her just yet, but I know it will be something that will grow the both of us. My primary goal is by the end of our 24 week year at co-op that she will be able to stand in front of her class and say at least 3-4 sentences in a voice that can be heard with little to no prompting from me. This may be a lofty goal, but it is my goal for her, just the same. We have also decided to stick with the ballet school for the fall semester and have enrolled her for a weekly class through to the end of December. She is excited, but also nervous about this class. The time for the class will require me to bring all the kids with me, which means I won't be available to go into the class with her. She is very nervous about this. She will have a new teacher and receive her instruction in a new studio within the school. This is a lot of change for a girl who took six weeks to finally allow me to sit and watch her.
I adore my Grace. I hurt when she hurts. Watching her stretch and grow and mature into this new role of big sister has been wonderful, but hard as well. We've shed tears together as we've both fought against the changes that were happening and wanted desperately to go back to a simpler way of things. But we are getting through all of it together. We are growing together and learning. Would you please join me in praying over Grace's upcoming year? For her teacher at ballet to completely understand all that she is going through this year and be able to embrace and engage her in a way that makes the separation from me seamless for her. For her teacher at our co-op to know just the right ways to encourage her during presentations and memory work. For me, as her teacher at home, to know how to get her excited about school and unafraid to use her pencil eraser because she's making mistakes, but it won't matter because she is trying something new. For me, as her mama, to know how to help her feel secure, loved, and treasured in her new role as child number three and big sister. I imagine this to be a big year for all of us. Some of it hard. Lots of it good. All of it worth it. Because I'll be watching her blossom before my very eyes.