A. recently started a yoga class at the YMCA. She bends, while I work out and H. makes her “” friends in the play area. What are “” friends? Everyday, when we pick H. up from the child-watch area, we ask her how many friends she’s made, and her response is always the same – she stares at her hands and then counts her fingers to five, five always said like a question. It is about the cutest thing I’ve seen, and until she stops responding that way, we will ask the question.

I can happily report that, after weeks of “shying away” in the netted section of the child-watch area, H. now roams about with the other kids, and is really making five friends a day, while I sweat, and A. finds inner-peace. It wasn’t always that way, A. and H. used to play in the same area while I worked out, they were a pair, and then one day A. decided that she wanted to be with the ‘big kids’. It was tough at first, for everyone, H. would stare at the hole in the wall high in the air, waiting for A. to climb to the top of the ‘big kid’ play structure, peak her head through, and wave at ‘sister’, a highlight for H. in-between her bashful smiles and shuffling feet. She is learning to become someone without her sister now.

One of my favorite things to do, and I’m sure other parents may agree, is to watch our girls when they don’t know they’re being watched. To me, it’s gratifying to see how they interact with others, both kids and adults, when we are not around. It is a glimpse into the hard work that we put in as parents. They will say, or not say, their “please” and “thank you’s” when we’re around, but what do they do when we aren’t around? Do they remember to clean up after themselves, look both ways, and otherwise exercise the “things” we, and other adults in their lives, try to teach them. It also offers a glimpse at another side of their personalities, who they are to others.

Today I peaked in on A. while she rocked her body, played with her mat, and looked around at what other kids were doing while in yoga class. I peered over the wall, trying to stay hidden, while I watched H. wander around and have ‘bump into’ interactions with the other kids. They both made me proud. I wasn’t necessarily proud of their behavior, I was proud that they are independent and able to be, yes even at this young age, themselves.

When we get around family, through our entire lives, we assume roles that were defined during childhood. Yes, some of those roles change and we “mature” in our relationships, but we still play a role within our family. Whether it be the youngest sister, the athletic brother, or any of the others that stick with us, to some degree, we fall into those roles when we get together. I believe, it is because they are known, they are easy, and they are predictable – they make us and others comfortable. So, what happens when we break out of that role and have the ability to act around our family the way we do around the rest of the world? What happens when we are confident enough to speak to our brothers the way we do to the person that we are managed by, or manage, at our job? Wait, should we speak to our brothers or sisters that way? In fact, should we treat our family the way we treat the rest of the world? or play the same roles?

My Papa Sense tells me:

Family, being around and apart of a family, means that you can be who you are. Family should be a “safe” place. Do our personalities really change that much after six years old? Sure, we change, but does the core of our personality, the part that our family knows, does that change? I don’t know the answer, but I do think that who we are to the “outside world”, as much as we want to say “we are, who we are” everywhere, is different. It is comfortable, easy, and predictable to fall into the “role” you defined as a child, because that is who you are, and you don’t have to worry about how family will view it, they know it, they know you.

I look forward to seeing who the girls will become to others, who they will become for themselves, and I find comfort in knowing that they will always be our A. and H., that we will be people in their lives that they can be themselves around – vulnerable, irritable, dreamy, ecstatic, elated, deflated, and proud – I hope they will always be able to be those things around us.