10-year-olds give me hope

My little sister, Anna, spent last week at our house with my husband and me. She went to a local soccer camp while I was at work, and then I picked her up in the afternoons and brought her to the office with me.

By day 2 she had already made herself at home. I glanced over my laptop to see her kicked back on one of the office couches, shoes off, wrapped up in a blanket and playing my iphone. One time I looked up and she was just gone. I frantically ran around the office to find her talking business with the accountant. By the time it was all said and done, she was practically running the place.

Tyler and I loved having her in town, though it did make our week rather unusual since it’s usually just the two of us. I mean, 10-year-olds can kind of take care of themselves-ish, so they’re not too high maintenance, but even though she’s relatively independent, it’s still a lot of work to keep her alive and entertained and give her all of my attention when she’s talking, because she’s almost always talking... or getting stuck in a doggie door.

I feel like we really got in some quality sister time. I got to see the world through her eyes for a week, and it was extraordinarily beautiful. I want to share with you a few things I learned from this wide-eyed little 10-year-old.

1. Just go with it.

Monday I was supposed to drop Anna off at a certain soccer camp. We got up extra early, ate breakfast, got dressed, coated her in sunscreen and loaded up her soccer gear. When we pulled up to the what should have been the camp’s location, there were no soccer players to be found. I asked a lady at the front desk where the soccer camp drop-off was and immediately knew something was not right. Her face looked both terrified and embarrassed for me. “Oh… that camp was canceled a few weeks ago,” she said slowly. “They sent out an email to all the parents.” 

My mom rarely checks her email, so we did not get word of the cancellation. 

Thanks, Mom. 

I immediately started brainstorming what to do with this 10-year-old because though I was excited to spend much of the week with her, I did actually have some obligation to my job. 

I explained to Anna what happened, and we got in my car and headed toward the office. On the way there, I was able to call around and get information on a few other camps happening in the area. “Anna, what about nature camp? Do you want to play with frogs? You could always just sit at my office all day. Maybe the library has some kind of summer program…” Though I could tell she was not thrilled about any of the previously listed options, she just shrugged at everything I asked and said “Doesn’t matter to me.” 

I finally found another soccer camp, even closer to my office. They said they could fit her in, and it worked out because it was actually a bigger and better camp than the one she would have attended. She was so excited, and I could tell that no part of her was deterred by the mixup. I on the other hand, felt as though I had already attended 3 meetings, a conference call and had been run over by an 18-wheeler all by the time I rolled into the office. But to Anna, it was as if the path she ended up on was where she had been headed all along. 

Anna 1 - Emily 0

2. Trust the people who love you.

By the fourth night Anna stayed with us, she was


I spend most days going from one activity/commitment to the next, so I had just been letting her tag along with me. But what I didn’t realize about 10-year-olds was apparently they need some time to rest. When we were getting ready for bed, Anna started crying. Initially, she said she didn’t know why. Then she said she was scared because she heard a noise outside. Whether she actually heard a noise or was just making up a reason to justify her tears – I suppose we’ll never know. Either way, I had to calm her down. So I told her she had nothing to be afraid of because I was there to protect her.


Then I realized how ridiculous that sounded and assured her Tyler was also there in case I needed backup. Even though I would likely provide little protection against an intruder (I mean I would give it my best), Anna stopped crying when I said this. She believed me. She had confidence in me… even though I was lying (but that’s not the point). She didn’t ask for my plan of action; she just trusted me, stopped crying and drifted off to sleep… as I stayed awake wondering what caused the noise she claimed to have heard outside our window. 

Anna 2 - Emily 0

3. On that note, get some rest.

While we’re already talking about the lack of rest, I will tell you I did get better at giving Anna time to rest. I worked from home the following two afternoons while she napped on the couch. And I cancelled plans we had Wednesday so she could go to bed earlier. But I realized how difficult it was for me to consciously slow down my pace. 

I, and maybe you too, are so accustomed to going from one engagement to the next. If I’m not at a meeting or social obligation, I’m being productive at home (for instance it is nearly 11 p.m. as I write this, but I don’t want to go to sleep until it’s finished). Some, better yet, most of these activities are enjoyable, but not stopping and resting can take a toll on us. And I would be lying if I said I had never, like Anna, had tears streaming down my face and didn’t even know why. We are humans, and humans need rest – peaceful, wholesome, life-giving rest. 

Or else we’ll start making up stories about hearing a noise outside the window that cause our older sister to stay up half the night.

Anna 3 - Emily 0

4. It doesn’t matter what people think.

We all want to be adored and appreciated. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect. On Day 2 of soccer camp, I picked Anna up and asked how her day went. “I fell in front of the entire camp,” she responded immediately. “Oh no,” I interrupted her, “What happened?”

“The coach picked me to stand in front of the whole camp and demonstrate a trick she taught us,” she went on. “I was trying to do the trick and tripped on my ball and fell on my face.” 

She started giggling.

“It was hilarious.”

I would have been MORTIFIED if this had happened to me. Sure, I would have laughed and acted like I didn’t care, but I totally would have cared. But I really don’t think Anna did. She just doesn’t care what people think about her, and of all of her spectacular traits, this is certainly one of my favorites. She says what she thinks. She knows when she’s good at something and when she needs to work on it. She’s terrible at telling jokes, and she will tell you that (after unsuccessfully attempting to tell about 18 jokes). Anna is just Anna, and right now, at the age of 10, that’s all she wants to be. 

I just wish I could tell her to stay the way she is – to remain little and pure and carefree. To keep her priorities exactly where they are presently, because for her right now, stopping for chocolate sprinkled donuts is more important than getting to soccer camp on time. And going for a walk with her older sister is more pressing than cleaning up after dinner. She loves vastly, and she brightens up even the most dreary of days. She gives me hope that if all the other 10-year-olds out there are like her, maybe – just maybe, the world is going to be ok.

Oh and final score, Anna 4 - Emily 0.