Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reflections from a Playground

Last summer, Kara and I rode our bikes to a local park during one her visits with me. It was just the two of us and I tend to make her the center of attention at such times. We went to the park to toss a football back and forth.

Kara's actually quite good for someone her age. Her throws have power and she's very accurate for a (then) seven year old. She’s a bit of a tomboy. (Who am I kidding? She's very much a tomboy. I'm convinced the only reason she isn't falling out of trees is the decided lack of nearby trees worth climbing.) In many ways, she's better at football than I've ever been. (I wasn't into sports all that much when I was growing up, so I never developed skills beyond what you pick up on the playground when you don't have much else to do.)

Kara loves that park; in part because there are usually a number of other children around and she likes to befriend them with that easy, immediate acceptance children have for each other. (Why do we lose that as we become adults? Can you imagine what the world would be like if we could survive the loss of innocence with that easy acceptance intact?)

On this day, there weren't any other children at the park when we arrived, so we started tossing the football back and forth. After about fifteen minutes, a young man arrived with what I assumed was his little sister. Kara noticed them right away and wanted to include them in the game. It took a few minutes, but she was able to coax the sister to join in. We were using a football that was for older children, but the sister caught the ball gamely. Throwing was harder for her, but we made it work.

After several minutes, the girls decided they'd had enough of that and walked over to the swings. They played on the swings for a while and began to ask questions of each other. What school did they go to? What grade were they in? What were their names? And so on.

We soon learned that Kara's new friend was called "Halley" and she was a year younger than Kara. Her brother, "Jordan," was 15 and he was responsible for taking her to the park, playing with her, and making sure nothing happened.

After a time, Halley and Jordan played together and I watched them through the corner of my eye. It was pretty clear that while Jordan was well on his way to becoming one of those "cool dudes" that many teenage young men aspire to be, he really cared about his sister and enjoyed spending time with her. He engaged with her, talked to her, and (perhaps most importantly) listened to her. And, as you might expect, it was pretty clear that Halley equally adored her big brother.

I couldn't help but recall another older brother/younger sister relationship that I was familiar with...specifically DD and her older brother B. When I first met B and DD, he spent a lot of time with her and paid a lot of attention to her. Over time, though, he spent less time and paid less attention (presumably because he was spending more time in "other" pursuits). I thought about this while looking at Jordan and Halley because I remembered very clearly the emotional transition that DD has gone through the past few years regarding her big brother.

At one time, she thought the world of him. Now, she hopes he learns what he needs in order to take active responsibility (and interest) in his life beyond his "other" pursuits. I know how much she misses the connection she once shared with her older brother.

And I thought about that connection while watching Halley and Jordan interact. I hope they manage to hang onto that mutual concern, caring, and respect they had for each other. As an only child, I can only understand that connection through observation. (I grew up with no siblings of my own and, while my parents each remarried into established families, I never became close to my step-sibs.)

I thought about opportunities lost, opportunities lost between B and DD and opportunities lost between B and me.

I mention this story because today is B's 21st birthday. If you've followed JP's blog for any length of time, you're familiar with the difficulties he's facing, as well as JP's own concerns, doubts, and fears for him. While he's current receiving treatment, we're not sure he's taking it as seriously as he needs to.

I haven't posted much about him because he and I aren't exactly close. When JP and I married, he decided the last thing he needed was a stepfather and, I have to confess, I didn't give him many reasons to reconsider that decision, especially as we learned of and then tried to deal with his addiction. Several times, he and I faced off in shouting matches about his behavior. I said unkind, mean-spirited things and I wasn't the nicest of people when I said them. I had no skills to deal with B and what he was going through and I'm afraid I allowed my anger and frustration control my behavior.

I own the responsibility I bear for my actions that lead to the difficulties between us. I was not the adult that I needed to be in those moments. I have apologized to him for those errors, but I know he still harbors resentment.

We are all works in progress and parenting, like anything, takes experience and practice to do well. I didn't do a very good job in those moments and I regret that deeply.

Perhaps I'll have a chance to do a better job in the future, but for now, I can only hope that B remembers the connections he once had with the rest of his family. Perhaps those memories will help lead him to a better place.

If so, I know of one little sister that's going to be really happy to have the big brother she once adored back in her life.

Happy Birthday, B. May your next one be spent with family, with laughter and joy. May this birthday bring you peace and clarity. May you find your true self, free of fears, anger, and chemicals.

Photo Credit: Brian McEntire


Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Thank you for this, love. I have the same wish. x...x, JP

10:36 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Without knowing the people you refer to, I find your writing the meaning to be very insightful and moving. Thanks... and yes, we're all work in progress. Sometimes 'good enough' is...

10:27 PM  
Blogger Footpad said...

@Gary: Thank you!

11:46 PM  

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