This past weekend I attended the 8th grade graduation for my "Little Sister" K. In case you don't know, K is my "little" through Big Brother Big Sister. It was six years ago this month that I decided to check out the BBBS program and see if it was something I could do. I was going through a rough patch in my life, having just recently come out of a serious relationship, and also having started to drift away from my college friends, and was finding myself home alone too often on the weekends. I needed something to get me out of the house, and more importantly, something to give my life meaning. I also think my biological clock had started a really subtle ticking, and I wanted to quiet it down. On my way into work one morning I saw a sign posted at a local Dunkin' Donuts for BBBS. I had always wondered about the organization, and it just seemed like perfect timing, so I called. After a lengthy and thorough interview process, and background check, I was ready to meet my "little".
It all started on June 2, 2001. That’s the day I met K, and the day that would change both of our lives forever. It has now been SIX years, and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like these past six years if she weren’t in it. Last year, around this time, I posted a blog entry at a different server about our 5 year anniversary...I'm going to steal from myself and re-post some of that here...In that entry, I included some stuff that I'd written in a Yahoo group from around the time I met K.
"I met my little sister on Saturday...and she is just the cutest little thing. She is 8 years old. She is a beautiful little girl, with this gorgeous smile with dimples and all...K was very quiet when I first met her, but when hergrandmother asked her if she wanted to go out with me for a little while, she shook her head YES very excitedly..."
"It was pouring out on Saturday, so we decided to go to the mall...and then when we got to the mall and had to run through the pouring rain to get in, and were soaking wet...she was laughing really hard and we were having a great time, and instantly she completely opened up. It was great. We had a great time at the mall, trying on hats and sunglasses, playing with all the toys that had buttons and made noise...at one point in the Disney Store I found a toy piano, and figured out how to turn it on and she looks at me and goes "You're cool".
Anyway, I was hoping that this experience would be a good one, and that they would do a good job matching me up with someone that I could help and get along with. I had no idea they were going to match me up so perfectly...this little girl could really be my little sister. She's a "lil' me". ;) I'm totally looking forward to the rest of the summer with her...and on an emotional tip...I cried when I went home because it felt so good to be helping someone and to be instantly liked by a little kid...I can tell we're going to be really close."
Reading over those words again just made me teary eyed. I couldn't have been more right, K and I have become as close as any two "sisters" could be.
I have such fond memories of our first few months together, all the fun things we did, and the ways I saw her personality change from this shy introverted little girl, to someone who just began to trust me completely and be really open and excited whenever we’d get together. It was always fun to do things with her that she’d never done before. Go to the circus, take her to the beach, the Museums, and just simple things like the mall, or something as silly as go to Jordan’s Furniture for free ice cream and cookies and walk around and check out all the furniture we’ll never be able to afford.
Over the years we’ve visited butterfly farms, bowled, had sleepovers, painted pottery, gone to hundreds of movies, visited the Aquarium, mini-golfed, hit the mall about a zillion times, spent countless hours at Barnes and Nobles, gone to the zoo, got matching haircuts, visited amusement parks, checked out medieval fairs, I’ve brought her to "bring your daughter to work" days, we’ve roller skated, soaked in an inflatable backyard pool, gone grocery shopping, run errands and just hung out.
More recently, as she's entered her teenage years, we've spent less time together, but still enjoy our trips to the mall, or going out to dinner. She loves to just come hang out at my place to watch movies and hang out. Just last week I took her shopping for shoes to wear to her semi-formal, and to look for a bathing suit she could wear on a field trip to a local amusement park. As she's started being interested in boys, I've tried to not be preachy while I give her advice on the things she should be careful with, and the fact that she does not need a "boy" to be happy. And as she develops into a young woman, I'm glad to be able to help her through some uncomfortable situations, sharing my experiences so she knows she is not alone. (For example the recent bathing suit buying excursion revealed that she, like me, is not ever going to be able to wear little "bikini" tops, as she's been cursed/blessed with a larger chest than most...already...at 14!! Poor kid).
K has become a part of my family, first getting close to my parents, my brother and my grandfather, and then meeting the extended family, all my friends, and even my co-workers. She loves my family, and my family loves her. Her family regard me as one of their own, and again, I feel the same about them. My brother has threatened to beat up boys when it became apparent that she was now into them. I have small heart attacks every time I realize how mature she’s beginning to look. There are definite maternal tendencies there that I can't control....Lord help me when I have kids of my own.
More than once she’s been my plus one to birthday parties, baby showers, and work events. She’s spent holidays, from Easter, to the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and even Christmas with my family. I’ve thrown her birthday parties; she’s come to birthday dinners with my family. She became close with my cousin’s little girl, and with my friends' nieces and nephews.
I still remember vividly the first time she said "I love you" as we were hanging up the phone. I called my mother crying "K said she loves me". Just a smile from her, and I’m instantly in a better mood. I worry about her, stress about her future, fret about her past. I will drop anything if she needs me, and miss her when too long goes by without seeing her.
She’s entering a time in her life that both frightens and excites me. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her, but am scared to death of the challenges she faces. The road has been wonderfully unpredictable so far, and I look forward to what bends it takes next, hoping I’ll be able to travel them with her, as her guide, or even just as her seatmate. Things have gotten more complicated lately, with her mother (who'd been absent for the last 7 years) entering her life again, and bringing with her no new level of maturity or responsibility. She's not a good influence and her grandmother and I will have to work that much harder to counteract whatever damage she does.
For me personally, K’s been a gift. I’ve been able to pause the biological clock, when the timing wasn’t quite right for me to enter motherhood, and I’ve still been blessed with the unconditional love one shares with a child and receives in return. What a blessing. And when motherhood does present itself, I now have a built in babysitter. Bonus!
But it was watching her cross the stage as she received her 8th grade diploma (and also an award for being the "most improved student") that made me realize what an impact we've had on each other's lives. She's a smart, beautiful, and overall good girl. From the shy 8 year old I met that day in June, so long ago, she's turned into this social butterfly, ready to take on the world. And I've been blessed enough to be there to see it all happen. She starts high school next year, and I can only pray that she'll continue on the right path. I'm looking forward to watching her cross another stage in four years, get another diploma, receive some other awards. God willing I'll be there, crying, taking pictures, feeling proud.
If you stuck it out through that whole LONG post, then you too deserve an award! Today I'm participating in "Link It Up" found at Skittle's Place. Leave a link in comments, and I'll come visit! If you would like to visit other commenters as well, that would be nice. And please go visit Skittle's!