Though Shelby started middle school last year, entering the 6th grade, the jump into 7th is more significant to me. In my own schooling, the seventh grade is when I was no longer an “elementary” student. I moved on to a new school, new friends, changing classrooms, more advanced subjects, and so on.
Shelby is doing the same this year. Not only that, she will be turning thirteen soon...officially a “teenager”. She’s already formed her own tastes in music, books, activities, foods, and hobbies. She’s gone through a change in “best friends” in the past year. She’s become more independent, responsible, opinionated, and dare I say, outgoing. Recently, she started her….well, you know.
All without Megan.
This is obviously not to say that she’s motherless. Sarah IS her mom, and has been for a few years now. We have been incredibly lucky to have her in our lives, especially me, who hasn’t had to deal with the changes of a pre-teen girl alone. Shelby fully considers Sarah her mother, and loves her as such. The feeling is mutual.
But every “milestone”, every change, development, or new trait always comes sprinkled with thoughts of “what would Megan think or do in this situation?” Would Shelby still be considered her “peanut”, having her food cut for her and hair braided? Would Megan embrace Shelby growing up, and encourage her to be more independent? Hell, would they be arguing about everything?
I don’t even want to fathom high school, boys, and driver’s licenses right now, though I know that within the next few years, we’ll be right there in the middle of it.
We lost Megan when Shelby was only 7 years old. She was barely into elementary school, and just getting into her love of reading. The internet wasn’t a thing in her world. The music, movies, activities, and media she consumed were hand-selected by us, especially Megan, who spoon-fed her Disney content and ensured that those old “little golden books” were plentiful in her library.
Should Megan suddenly re-animate, having worn blinders for 5 years, just how in the hell would she react to Shelby, now? Shelby makes herself dinner from time to time. She’s washing her own clothes. She chooses her own books, likes her own type of music, and goes riding off with her friends in the neighborhood on her bike (hell, she learned to RIDE her bike!). She’s learned to swim, loves Marvel movies and Stranger Things, and even has a cell phone, email address, and is staying home alone while we’re out running errands.
She’s even driven our vehicles, albeit just simply parking them in the garage on her own.
In other words, she’s growing up.
In a “normal” situation, all of this has taken place over five years, slowly evolving to today’s Shelby. It wouldn’t be a massive change to parents when it is stretched out over time. But in the hustle of life, Megan’s observations are only considered in “chunks”. She missed Shelby’s elementary school “graduation”. She missed her first 5K run, riding her bike, jumping off a diving board, and the entire “Harry Potter” phase. She missed Shelby’s first flight, riding of a horse, and slumber party away from home. Suddenly, looking at Peanut five years later...she is a completely different person.
There have been so many developments, changes, events, and milestones that Megan has missed in Shelby’s life that I sometimes wonder if she would even recognize her own daughter should she suddenly be physically back in our lives. Every day seemingly puts them further and further apart. Apart from what Megan knew.
This pains me to no end. Not in the sense that it causes additional grief over Megan’s death, but it pains me that Megan hasn’t been able to have a hand in it. I don’t know myself how different Shelby might be as a person, so far, had Megan not died.
Make no mistake, I am incredibly proud of Shelby, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Sarah was and is exactly who Shelby needed in her life. I have no regrets, and no apprehension about it at all.
But still, my mind wanders into the “what-ifs”, five years later. I suppose it is something that will always happen for the rest of my days. As Shelby grows up, she may begin to ask herself the same. For now, I am content with her being a happy kid with her own interests. I’m embracing these changes, and I like to think that Megan would have too. Had we never met Sarah, I’m sure things would be different still.
But what-ifs are a waste of time, really. Not that there is any way to suppress them, but until time-travel is invented, they’re only thought exercises. I can try as hard as I want to not overthink it when Shelby learns something new, but our curse as widows is to do just that. Sometimes I wish that I could have been the one wearing blinders, if only for the surprise when I take them off.