Monday, February 29, 2016

Shortest, warmest, coldest, and a sister act

It's Leap Day and Earbaby turns 17 tomorrow. A year and a day ago, she was celebrating at her Sweet 16 party. A year later, she remembers she was so stressed she couldn't have a good time. She thought she would enjoy being the center of attention. She found out that she didn't. So this year she didn't want anything. Seventeen isn't special she says, and her birthday falls on a school night anyway. The boyfriend has told her he wants to take her out for her birthday, so for the first time, we won't even be a part of her Big Day. No cake, special dessert, or us. Oh well.

We're adjusting. Not to being shunned on her birthday, we have a big surprise for her anyway. But February brought us the coldest days of the year (below 0 degrees), the warmest days of the year (60 degrees), and a new addition to our family.

EB has managed to kinda, sorta gain a sibling.

Her friend, Maria, is from another country originally, but has been in this one since second grade. She came to EB's school as a Beezee, the name given to the kids who come into the school in the ninth grade instead of in the seventh (those are called Sixies, for the six years they will be there). They became friends, but not necessarily really close, until recently. Maria's living situation recently took a drastic turn. She had been living in an apartment with an older sister and two other people. But when the landlord decided to move the two others (who were the only ones on the lease) into a smaller space, Maria's sister took the opportunity to move into her college's dorm. That left Maria without a place to stay.

EB asked if she could live with us. Now, as someone who would gladly change places with the nursery rhyme mother who lived in a shoe with countless offspring, I had no problem saying yes. And her dad said yes too. That part actually surprised me a little. He is a lot more introverted, private, and slower to change than I am. But he and I both agreed on this one. Although she is already 18, because she came from another country, she is a just a junior. Still she worked to pay for a room, her own food, cellphone, and incidentals, all while going to a tough school full time. EB's dad and I were on the same page -- it just shouldn't be this hard to get through high school.

So she's living with us, she says, at least until the end of the school year. She plans on returning to her native country in the summer to visit her mother who still lives there. Then next school year, she'll figure out her living situation again.

It's only been a couple of days, but the whole month has been leading up to this adjustment. For all of us.

Now EB even acknowledges that she is spoiled. She's always been the only child, a princess who pretty much gets all of her needs met, and a fair amount of her wants. But with that, she also showed her generosity by wanting to open up her home to a friend. Yes, she's entitled and ungrateful plenty of times. Still, she also has enough friends who have troubled family lives to appreciate the life she has -- when she's not taking for granted the fact that a late night call will always, always guarantee a safe ride home. We may come mad, but we always come. She's never had to worry about paying her bills, staying in a place where the roommates and/or their visitors are sketchy, or if she will make enough money for food and rent. It's not been on her radar until now.

And Maria is mature. She immediately started looking for jobs in our neighborhood so she won't have to travel so far after school for work. She asked how much we wanted for rent, said she could help pay for groceries. We appreciate her sense of responsibility and know that it will rub off on EB, who already is grateful now that she's back babysitting and earning her own money. I was pleased the day she decided to turn down a chance to go out with friends when she was asked last minute to babysit. Because most of her friends also work part time, she is starting to feel the pull of financial independence.

There may be bumps in the road ahead. The family dynamic has changed. Maria is thus far a little reticent, not wanting to intrude or make waves. But she's grateful and sweet, and just the kind of sibling EB needs. Their relationship is not volatile like the one EB has had with her best friend Brenda, with whom she clashed after EB's boyfriend came into the picture. Those two are slowly becoming friends again, but EB doesn't feel the same and thinks she never will. With Maria, there is an easier flow.

Sibling rivalry may rear its head yet in the days, weeks, months to come. But Maria is good for Earbaby. Actually, she's probably good for all of us.

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