One of the biggest developments in our life this year is one about which I have scarcely written here. There are a whole variety of reasons for that: some relating to what feels sufficiently newsworthy to share, others relating to respecting another person's privacy.
Since May, our now-15-year-old Goddaughter has moved to live, during term times, with us here in Birmingham, and her arrival as a member of our 'family' has been hugely significant. While it may not be appropriate to detail every moment of our journey together, it does feel important to acknowledge and reflect on the impact of this latest adventure, and this is my space to do that.
Of course this change has had a significant impact on our day-to-day life and our responsibilities: sometimes doing things we otherwise wouldn't have, or not doing things we might; doing things together and adapting accordingly to what that looks like; accommodating another person's food preferences, parents' evening from a different side to the one I am used to seeing them and ...
More than any of that, though, I think I have learned / am learning a different way to love: different in ways I can't explain from the love I offer my husband, my family and friends, the students I care about ... Maybe this is something that every parent understands more fully than I ever will, and can explain more coherently too. But for me this unique experience of love is still new, and still hard to express. It is a love which, I think, stems from the wonderful privilege of being offered the chance in a very particular way to love someone just the way they are whilst at the same time journeying with them in shaping who they are destined to become.
I realise 15 is no easy place to be: I get that it is incredibly challenging to exist in this strange space between child and adulthood. While some of us (myself included at times) are perhaps mourning their lost youth, I have no doubt really I would rather be where I am now than in my own teenage angst-ridden skin. And this young person has taken on even more than most: leaving the familiarity of home and school for a whole other set of people and a whole new environment...and she has done so with great grace. I hope she always holds on to the character and quiet courage which have brought her this far, and that it carries her through whatever experiences the world throws at her.
I am not immune to fearing for how she will find her way in this complicated world we inhabit; or of my ability to watch her make mistakes and get hurt as she inevitably will. And it would be dishonest to suggest there are no minor irritations thrown in for good measure (as there are, undoubtedly, for her too!)
But I am continuously encouraged and amazed by her resilience, and proud in ways I didn't know I would be of who she is already and of the potential for who she will be in the future. In the midst of all that, she is simply good company and I am delighted to have the chance to share in the fun and laughter she brings.
I guess, then, perhaps, this post is above all my tribute: to an astonishing young woman, who I love, very deeply, in a way that is unique to her: something she may or may not ever realise. My hope for my own part in this story is that I can in whatever small ways help her, as she continues to grow, to truly know how precious she is and to understand her own inherent value and worth.