Today my niece/daughter will attend her last day of secondary school. Year 12 has come to an end and the dreaded exams are looming.
It doesn’t seem that long ago she was attending her Year 12 retreat in preparation for the massive year ahead.
As part of this retreat, parents are asked to write a letter to their child expressing positive support and reflections of happy or meaningful times. Of course all the parents go “Arrrgh… how am I going to write this letter?” because we all know how much our now young adults look forward to receiving it… even if they don’t admit it at the time.
It is a really a nice way to bring closure to those sometimes tumultuous and torrid teenage years that, if we are honest, we all experience. It’s nice to remember and share the quality foundations of times past that we can too often forget as disciplinarians in challenging years.
A little background: Ten years ago my niece and her two older brothers (aged 8, 11, and 13) came to live with us on a permanent basis. They had come to stay every holiday since they could remember so really it was just an extension of that. It did, however, bring with it a whole lot of adjustment for all of us in many wonderful but also challenging ways.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops all of the time and I’d be fibbing if I said it was but it has certainly been an honour and a privilege and we would do it all again tomorrow.
Our son was 13 at the time. My mother lives in her own granny flat up the end of our veranda. My husband has chronic rheumatoid arthritis and is wheelchair bound. We went from a family of 4 to a family of 7, two dogs, two cats, a bird and two rats that belonged to the boys… yes, two rats!!!
As a tribute to all that these children have been through in their young lives and for all the amazing choices they are now making for their future lives as young adults I have posted my letter to Alleena written for her retreat back in February (with permission).
Please forgive my indulgent proud aunty/mummy moment.
As victims of domestic violence these three children are testament to the phrase:-
“Don’t let your past define your future”
I admire and thank our son for his maturity and supportive beautiful nature from such a young age and helping to guide his cousins.
Doug and I are so incredibly grateful to our wonderful immediate and extended family and precious friends who have all helped make a difference not only in our children’s lives but in our lives also. We don’t know where we would be without any of you.
Change is yet to hit us once again as we go from being ‘packed to the rafters’ to mostly being a family of three, one bird, and one cat as now the fledglings return home to roost only on occasions.
Congratulations Alleena on finishing Year 12. Time to dream and soar!
I decided to write my letter as a ‘Once upon a time’ letter. At this point you may like to grab a cuppa… or a Kit Kat for a well earned break, so I’ll give you a minute to get settled…
(Insert classic piano waiting room music)
Okay? All set?
Here is “Once upon a time, a blink of an eye ago”…
Once upon a time, a blink of an eye ago I met the cutest little girl I ever did see. All of 18 months old she stood beside her two older brothers as they sat quietly on the floor, pushing them and their hands out of the way so she could get her fair share of the hot chips unwrapped in the white paper spread on the floor.
Neither of them stopped her… obviously she was a force to be reckoned with and they had learned not to mess with her. I muffled a giggle and thought to myself “Thank goodness she’s got spunk because she’s going to need it”.
Her impending beauty was evident even back then. Dark brown eyes and long lashes; defining cheek bones; strong jaw line; adorable little nose; flawless soft olive skin; glossy dark hair; and that smile… be warned… it has the magic to melt you.
From that first meeting I thought her career would definitely be on the stage. If her spirit, charm and lively character weren’t enough to win you over, her facial expressions would be your defeat. One look into those sad dark eyes after saying ‘No’ to her about something and your guilt would consume you to the point of feeling like a monster.
Her face said everything; she could hide nothing! Still can’t!
And mind you she mastered the art of turning the expressions on and off as quick as a light switch to suit any situation!
When she was excited her eyes shone, her smile beamed and her face flushed with delight. Her body so tense with anticipation she would often just jump around saying “I’m so excited!” And you would be helpless against the fulfilling joy welling up inside you warming your soul.
Equally as charming is how she can’t help but smile a huge smile when she is nervous… a lovable trait inherited from her Mother who does the same.
Every holiday, until she became too heavy, she was either attached to my hip or sitting in my lap. Once when she was about 2 years old she climbed onto my lap while I was sitting on the floor watching tele and wrapped her arms and legs around me and fell into a deep sleep. I didn’t have the heart to wake her; she looked just like a little koala all snuggled up and snoring wheezy little snores.
My bottom went numb from the hard floor, but I didn’t care. She had her arms around me; she was safe and snug… and really warm!
Fast track to a few years later and that cute little girl moved in with us permanently. We were overjoyed! If she wasn’t by my side she was beside her uncle. I’d often look out the window wondering where she had got too only to see her perched on the back of Doug’s wheelchair riding around the back yard chattering away in his ear; announcing to me as she would run in the door, quite out of breath, smiling “I’m helping Uncle Doug!”
Doug nicknamed her ‘Bubble’ because she was so full of ‘bubble and bounce’. She never stopped. That unquenchable zest and enthusiasm for living life and keeping busy is still a huge part of her character today.
Little did we know she had many hidden talents. We already knew she could talk under water, so that was no surprise but she was very good at sports and extremely competitive. We loved going to sport and swimming days at Primary School secretly smiling at her determination to compete as hard as she could.
However, it would be netball where she would find her niche and we are so proud of her dedication and achievement with this sport and pleased for her she found something that she loved and made her feel special. I love watching her play.
What had me wiping away the tears in the back stalls was when she did little readings in church with her grade at Primary School.
On these days she made sure she was extra specially groomed; hair just right; shoes shiny; correct uniform. Then this tiny little poppet would stand up at the microphone with such quiet confidence in front of a church full of people and deliver her well-rehearsed lines with loveable seriousness.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like without this girl or her adorable brothers; it has been an incredible privilege to give them refuge, watch them grow and blossom into beautiful, intelligent, friendly, caring souls.
One of the many positive enriching gifts about having these children in our lives are the great friends they have made… many of their friends’ parents are now my closest friends and I can’t imagine life without them either.
I’m so grateful on so many levels for the gifts these children have brought into my life.
Now that adorable 18 month old I met only a blink of an eye ago is a young lady almost 18 years old and reading this letter on her Year 12 Retreat.
What can I say Alleena… you have grown up into the stunning young woman I always knew you would. You are still high spirited, charming and of dynamic character. I will always feel the need to protect you and I wish nothing less for you than a meaningful and fulfilled life, complete with an abundance of love, health, wealth, happiness and true inner peace.
Despite our often strained relationship over the past few years I truly hope you know that your uncle and I will always be here to support you. It was never my intention to replace your Mother. Mum’s are not replaceable… what I have tried to do is just be the best parent and role model that I can be.
Some days I fell short of that with all of you, and often still do.
Even though I have said on many occasions over the last few years, quite indignantly “I give up!” I never have and never will. To give up would be to lose you and I won’t let that happen. We took you and your brother’s in not because we had too but because we were yearning too.
The moment the three of you were all together under our roof permanently with me, your uncle, your cousin and grandmother was huge for me… no more worrying myself sick… you were all safe and you were where you belonged and where you were destined to be.
Your brothers will always be our nephew/sons and you will always be our niece/daughter. We think of you as our own.
Your uncle and I wish you well as you embark on your last year of secondary school. You have made an impressive start to the year and we can see that you are determined to do well.
Just remember wanting to achieve is wonderful but keep some perspective and balance… your enter score does not and will not define you.
I leave you with one of my favourite quotes as I think it is quite appropriate at this particular time in your life. We look forward to sharing the next chapter of your life with you Alleena.
“What lies behind us,
And what lies before us,
Are tiny matters compared to
What lies within us.”
I wish all the Year 12 students the very best in the coming months ahead.
What about you? Are you saying goodbye to school life as a parent?