My sweet Abigail turned eight today - an event all by itself that would have made the day very special indeed. As has become our tradition, we took off from school for the day, enjoyed birthday cupcakes with the daycare children, went out to dinner at the restaurant of Abbie's choice (Noodles & Company this year), and came home to enjoy birthday cake (angel food, per Abbie's request). Later this month, we'll host friends and family for our annual big birthday "bash" - a celebration of special days this month for Abbie, Rachel, and Grandpa.
But today we also marked a once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage: BOOSTER-PRISON FREEDOM DAY!
Yes, today Abigail graduated from the legal requirement to sit in a booster seat while traveling in a car; now she's free to simply buckle up while sitting on the seat cushion itself. Of course, it's a big deal to her - a day she's been looking forward to for quite some time. And so we made a special occasion of taking an "unencumbered" car ride this morning...and it made no difference at all that we merely went to the grocery store for milk.
I was tickled for Abbie, pleased to make a fuss for her sake over one small step toward her growing up. But on our mid-morning errand I was bursting with joy for another, more significant reason.
You see, today was also Booster-Prison Freedom Day for Rachel.
Rachel will turn nine on May 20, which means that she has been legally free to ride sans booster since last year. However, just before she turned eight, she pulled me aside and said, "I'd like to stay in my booster for another year - so that Abbie won't feel bad. Then we can change at the same time."
Abbie is the more easy-going of my two girls, and so I'd figured she'd have adjusted to a year in which she had a booster while Rachel did not; it would have been a struggle, but she'd have been able to deal with the realities of being the younger sister. Even so, I'd been thinking about how to best handle the situation when the time came. But Rachel solved the problem for me.
I sometimes take flak for not "letting" the girls explore more individual interests; I can't tell you how many times I've been told it'll be "good for them" if I "make" them pursue different activities and have different friends.
Now, as anyone who knows them can attest, Rachel and Abigail are very different in many ways. They have markedly different personalities and each has a unique mix of multiple intelligence strengths. And Abigail is definitely more of a girly-girl, while Rachel is a self-described "tomboy." They sometimes pursue very different interests.
But - just as actual twins have an unexplainable connection to and affinity for each other - these girls have hearts for each other. They choose without one bit of prompting from me to come downstairs several days a week dressed as twins. They decide to cuddle together while watching an afternoon movie. They've both ultimately chosen to pursue both ice skating and gymnastics because of mutual interest - not because I've "made" them do the sports together. They freely refer to one another as each other's best friend, though each also has other good friends.
And so a year ago, Rachel chose to listen to what I believe was the Holy Spirit's prompting, and she decided to put the needs of someone else - her much-loved little sister - ahead of her own desire to be "free" and more grown-up. I know it was a God-thing because there was not a time in the whole past year when she complained or asked to be "released" early or even said anything about it. The Lord gave her contentment and peace because she'd listened to His leading.
Over the last couple of weeks - with Booster-Prison Freedom Day fast approaching - we've reminded Rachel what a good thing she's done, and we built up the specialness of this day for both girls' sake. My joy today as we buckled up for our milk-run was happiness for the girls - because they were happy to reach a milestone in growing up - and unbridled gratitude to God for how He's knit these two girls' hearts and souls together and for how He's helping them day by day to become more and more like Jesus.
Oh, they certainly have their share of tiffs with each other - each and every day, including today after we got home. But I'm so thankful that disagreements are the exception between them and that ugly sibling rivalry doesn't rule the roost. Rachel and Abigail love each other and want the best for each other; often, one puts the other above herself. If that's the result of how God has been leading us to raise them...well, then I'll take the flak and keep on keepin' on!