Letting Them Grow Up

November promises to be a fun month for me: my favorite antiques store is having a Christmas party and sale, which means we’ll be hitting the Tea Shoppe next door for lunch and then I’ll nose around and see if I can find anything adorable for my house. Breaking Dawn hits movie theaters a week later and even though I hated the book with a vengeance, I’ve always rather enjoyed seeing the movies with girl friends (and yes, mocking it… although we all loved Eclipse). The latest season of Smallville will also be out just in time for the holidays… but two things are happening on November 22nd: the sixth season of Doctor Who will be released and my “little” (speaking only in Big Sister terms, since he has been considerably bigger than me since he was sixteen) brother will be turning a year older. And like most men, he is a pain in the neck to buy anything for, so having his birthday and Christmas be so close together means I have to pull double gift duty. Now, when he was younger that was easy, just get him the latest Play Station game (that doesn’t have violence in it) or slapstick comedy… but he doesn’t want that stuff anymore. His Play Station is gathering dust, and when he sent me his Amazon Wish List, I said, “Are you KIDDING? There is nothing on here but books on theology and stuff by conservative pundits!”

“So?” he asked me.

“So… I don’t want to get you boring stuff! I want some diversity!”

He stared at me. “I don’t care if it’s diverse: I want political books!”

I scoured my brain for something to get him that wasn’t on his list, something fun… and then I went to see Courageous. If you haven’t seen it yet, do — but be forewarned, it will change your life forever. Most of the challenges contained in its messages are for men, for them to step up and be the spiritual leaders and providers in their home, but I got something else entirely out of it when a week or so later, I gave my dad a copy of The Resolution for Men by Stephen Kendrick for his birthday. It’s based on the principles of the film but is an incredible challenge for men. I wasn’t able to read all of it before handing it over but I saw enough to be impressed by it (there’s one portion in particular that astounded me with regards to its approach to sex outside of marriage) — and as it passed my brother, a look entered his eye and he said, somewhat enviously, “Oh, THAT is neat.”

That is when it hit me over the head like a ton of bricks falling on a distracted construction worker — my brother is an adult now. He’s grown up. Like Paul said in the Bible, when he was a child, he acted like a child, and spoke like a child, and thought like a child — but now he has put the things of childhood behind him. While I have been struggling to find my own place in society, to come to terms with growing up and putting childish things behind me, my brother has also grown up. He doesn’t want video games anymore. He wants grown up things, things that will challenge him in his faith, teach him more about politics, or enrich his life in practical ways. He wants to become a man, and be treated like one.

Parents really struggle with letting their children growing up and knowing when to stop “acting” like a parent and start building a relationship with us that is different from what it is before, in which we are treated as equals rather than kids. But I also think siblings have trouble accepting the maturity of younger family members, because we are always going to feel like Big Sister. Our natural instinct is to be protective and forget how old our “little” brother or sister actually is; even though he wears a size sixteen shoe or she is holding down a full time job or working through college, we forget he or she is an adult. We still want to jump in there and defend them, to protect them, to boss them around, rather than letting them solve their own problems and find their footing,  rather than letting them grow up and realizing they can defend themselves. One day we wake up and realize neither of us are kids anymore. For some of us that doesn’t happen until our “little” brother turns up with a girlfriend and an engagement ring and we think “… since when are you mature enough to get married?” For others, it is faced when we realize that our brother isn’t a boy anymore, he’s a man and deserves to be respected as one. That is the moment when we have to forget every childish, embarrassing thing he ever did and retrain ourselves to treat him differently in the knowledge that he deserves better than we’re accustomed to giving him.

I have managed to forge the waters of growing up and transitioning in my relationship with my parents — though there are times they still “boss me around” in that Parental Tone, but they are my closest friends. I tell them everything (… eventually) and no one else can talk me through my emotions and struggles like they can. I’m not afraid to contradict them in my views because I know they are not going to get angry at me or hold a grudge against me or have any of the other immature reactions that I might find elsewhere. I’m still their daughter, but I’m also their friend. Now it is time to make that transition with my brother. I know figuring it out is going to be a challenge, but he continually surprises me every day — with his spiritual maturity, his increasing wisdom, his knowledge. I have to learn to see him as an equal, and then we can become friends. Because unlike my outside friends, JD will be in my life for as long as we are both alive, and he’s more than just my brother anymore: he’s a godly man worth knowing. I’ll always be there for him if he needs me, but I also know that in many ways, he can hold his own.

I did figure out what to get him for his birthday. It wasn’t on the list, but it isn’t “a childish thing,” either. It’s something that will serve him well, that reflects the new person he has become, and that he will love. The only downside is… with such a gift borne of utter brilliance, there’s no way I can top it for Christmas. =P

3 thoughts on “Letting Them Grow Up

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  1. I know what you mean. My brother is 28 and it seems crazy to me sometimes! He has a wife and is thinking about adopting kids; he’s not a kid anymore.

    And since my kids are little, I don’t have to worry about treating them like adults, but I’m sure that’s a hard transition to make. It’s already hard enough letting Kate do things by herself and not remembering she’s not a baby anymore.

  2. Very thought-provoking post, Charity – and entertaining, too. =D

    My mom and I have often discussed the whole thing about parents being their kids “friends.” I do think there comes a point where parents and children can be “friends,” but above all, our parents are just that. Parents SHOULD be in children’s lives AS parents – as the parental guidance. Most parents just want to “get along” with their children, instead of teaching them the hard lessons that might provoke the child to an angry reaction.

    We should look to our parents for advice – they have wisdom that we do not.

    Best of luck with that gift for your bother – Christmas gift that is. (Oh, and goodness sake, I thought you “despised” the “Twilight” movies!?)

    1. Our society does indeed press the issue of friendship with your child when your child is far too young — there is a time to BE a parent and discipline and educate, and a time when your child is now an adult and you have to relate to them on an entirely different level. Your parents will always be older, and you will (or should) always look to them for advice — but parental / child relationships do (and should) change as you get older.

      The “Twilight” movie series is really, really bad. It’s cheese on an epic level. It’s ideal giggle material with friends, and that’s how it is best viewed. My relationship with it is… complicated.

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