It must have been quite late, that night several months ago, when the creeping footsteps woke me. I could feel her in the room, hesitating by my bedside, hoping to not startle me awake.
"What do you need?" I mumbled, still half asleep.
"Matthew just threw up. I've started a bath for him and stripped the sheets. I'll wash him off, remake the bed and clean it all up. I just remembered running water in the middle of the night often wakes you, and I didn't want you to worry when you heard it."
I felt instant relief as I sank back into dreamland. My teenager seemed to grasp what needed done and had it under control. My precious sleep time could be preserved.
Just as I hit the brink of oblivion, a thought jolted me back; I suddenly remembered that I am the mother. She was a good-hearted teenage girl who still needed sleep before facing a full day of middle school. Just because she is willing to take on responsibility doesn't mean I should make her. So I sighed as I forced my body fully awake. I thanked her for being so kind to her youngest sibling, and sent her off to bed while I headed down to take care of a sick preschooler.
I know I lucked out with my teenagers. So far, they still like my husband and me. In fact, they still model their behavior on us. I guarantee you if I'd heard how she comforted her brother that night, it would've been exactly what I'd say. They crave responsibility and often thrive on it.
My struggle is finding the balance. Where is the line between teaching them to be a grown up and letting them be a kid a while longer?
The hard thing is I suspect that darn line is moving around. Not only is it vastly different for every child and age, it is different from day to day. Sometimes it's movement can be measured in minutes. At times, I realize I've heaped too much responsibility on and other times I've let the load become too light. Tracking our proximity to this child-teenager-adult line is often near impossible.
But even I knew midnight sick duty for a four-year-old jumped far over the line. Despite what my sleep addled mind whispered in the moment.
Dinner tonight, however, will be up for you-should-know-how-to-do-this grabs.