Where Are You Going . . . ?

where--layers--no layers1A small girl, racing towards life.

A mother, astounded by joy and love.

The words of a poignant folk song, reminding us that such days are fleeting.

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.

Some years ago, I took this photograph of the two of them, mother and daughter, my sister and my niece.

Today, we’ve turned around and that little girl is eighteen years old. Quite soon, she’ll be going out of the door, to university, to adulthood, to life.

You’ve seen it happen, with the children in your lives. All the usual clichés apply—how did that happen? Where did the time go? Why, it seems like only yesterday . . .

This girl holds a huge place in our family. My sister wanted her so much and finally, finally at 40, became a mother. This girl is the only child in the family, the only grandchild—she’s gotten a lot of advice, and a lot of guidance, a lot of mother-henning, and a lot of lectures from a family of teachers.

And, in spite of it all, she turned out great!

She is smart, very smart, and curious. Her favorite courses are those with the toughest teachers, who push her hardest.

She is strong, very strong. She has made decisions about her physical health and fitness, and she sticks with them. She has thought through her values and convictions, and sticks to them.

She is funny, a smart aleck, and quick-minded, very quick.

She is mature, and confident, and stubborn.

She doesn’t like to ask for help. She doesn’t like to appear weak or unsure. She doesn’t like mean people.

Yes, in those things, it’s clear—she belongs to us, for sure!

Because she is smart, and strong, and quick, she doesn’t need advice from me but I’m her aunt. I believe that giving advice is in my job description!

So, here we go. Remember Polonius. Remember Laertes. Remember to be true to thine own self.

Remember that the tough teachers are the best, and know that life is a tough teacher.

The world is a tough place at times, but facing it you will help you grow stronger, and strong is what you want to be:

Adversity poses problems.

Problems demand two things—resilience and solutions.

If I could wish one thing for you it would be that you are always able to face the difficulties of life with resilience, to bounce back, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Resilience allows you to hold your head high and get past drama, to discover solutions rooted in your values. The solutions may make it necessary to ask for help to solve problems. That’s okay—knowing when, and who, to ask for help is not a weakness.

The solutions you find will build in you the confidence and maturity to face new problems with the knowledge that they, too, can be surmounted, with intelligence, humor, and kindness. And resilience.

So, Emily-at-18, where ARE you going?

The folksong is poignant, and it focuses on loss.

We haven’t lost a thing. That baby girl was adorable but we’ve gained with every year that the girl has moved toward adulthood.

Wherever you choose, Emily, go with the knowledge that we’ll be there with you, still astounded by joy and love after all these years. You may be going out of our door, but never out of our lives or hearts.

33 thoughts on “Where Are You Going . . . ?

  1. Blessed is Emily, with such a wise and caring and lovely family around her. And blessed is the family and the whole world with Emily. She seems like a young woman who was offered the best in life and choose to accept it, cherish it and with her ‘life-suitcase’ well packed, she is ready for her ‘life-travel’ on her own but not alone. She is a fine promise for the future, brought already so much love and goodness and will continue to do so. Many people will gripe and whine about the ‘youth now a days’ ( as many people already do so for centuries…) but I see so many lovely hard working young people in my life…and as a very biased mom count my own two lovelies in.
    what a lovely, lovely post Kerry! hugs from Ohio, Johanna.

    • You write the best comments, Johanna–so kind and generous! And you really capture the way I feel, too, about young people. I’m sure there are some problem kids, just as there are problem adults, but, overall, I have great confidence in a future that includes your sons and my niece!

  2. She is fortunate, indeed, to have such inner strength and such a well to draw from when in need. I am thinking now of my son, in the middle of Colville National Forest in northern Washington, in the midst of survival training. I am not worried — I know he’ll come through it fine. But I know the point of the exercise is to build resilience and problem-solving skills, with few human-provided resources. He is strong and is with strong teammates to help. … Good wishes going out into the universe, for your niece and for my son…

    • Your son is definitely building resilience–tempered in flame, it sounds like! I think that inner strength and resiliency will take a person through most everything life can throw at them.

  3. I’m with you all the way on this, Kerry. I’m an aunt, too, and am convinced that it is in our job description to give advice. Yours is especially sage. What a lucky girl she is to be surrounded with so much love.

    • If only the world would listen to us aunts! Emily is a very lucky girl, all the way around. She has some drama in her life and she is working on rising above it–which will take, and build, resiliency!

  4. Such a sweet post full of “aunty” advice that goes far beyond just the intended recipient!!! Love that folksong!!! For some reason it always brings tears!!!!!! Not sad or happy……just tears………………………..

    • I end up teary every time I hear that song, too! I knew, when I gave the photo, overlaid with the words like that to my sister, it would trigger her tears, too–and it did!

    • Emily is unusual in that I think she really understands how lucky she is to have a supportive family. So many 18-year-olds seem to push families away and think they can get along all on their own. I like that butterfly image–it’ll be fun to watch her unfold her wings!

  5. I know this was written for your neice, Kerry, but there are words of wisdom for all of us here. Inspirational and beautifully written. Thank you!

    • That’s such a nice thing to say, Susan! When I look back on my life, I do think that my ability to bounce back and to turn my back on drama has served me well. I’m pretty pragmatic–life isn’t always fair. Get over it. Move on to better times.

  6. My wife comments: “When I read about children ‘growing up before your very eyes’, these lyrics from “Fiddler on the Roof” always come to mind.”

    Is this the little girl I carried?
    Is this the little boy at play?

    I don’t remember growing older
    When did they?

    When did she get to be a beauty?
    When did he grow to be so tall?

    Wasn’t it yesterday
    When they were small?

    Sunrise, sunset
    Sunrise, sunset
    Swiftly flow the days
    Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
    Blossoming even as we gaze

    Sunrise, sunset
    Sunrise, sunset
    Swiftly fly the years
    One season following another
    Laden with happiness and tears

  7. Pingback: What I’m Weaving This Wednesday | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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