Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the tag “girls”

You Just Don’t See Her

Twice, I’ve had my psychic gut sucker punched this week.  The first was by David P. Goldman aka Spengler, who blogged “Everything important that we do in life, we do alone, and in our own way, for there is no-one else to do it for us.”  The second was by my friend Marie’s mother (who’s quite the case study in psychic sucker punches all by herself.)  Marie was telling her mom she was finally wearing the braces at age 48 she first needed 35 years ago.  Her Mom commiserated that they just didn’t have the money then, but she knew “that God would make sure that one day, you got what you needed.”

For a 21st century snow-plowing, helicoptering, handholding, Purel squirting, extracurricular chauffeuring Mom, this hurts.  Somehow I developed the idea that, if I do everything right, my kids would be set.  They would arrive at the doorstep of 18, or 21 (or if things continue the way they are, 37) and not have a problem in the world.  They would ace exams, pick perfect partners, pay their full balances, never visit payday loans.  The drops of life-sucking misfortune would sheet off the oily feathers of their healthy self-esteem.  They would never doubt themselves, or feel unloved.  I had come to believe, that even though we live approximately 80+ years, my kids would do all the important living sometime in the first 20.

Yet in my own life, most of my big stuff happened waaaay past 18.  And, as for the “good foundation” trope:  I’m not denying a good upbringing is a precious gift, but in my case I was raised by a people with mental illness, drug addiction, chronic unemployment, and I had been walked-out on by not one, but two different fathers.  Why this might explain volumes about my constant twitching, I still wasn’t sentenced to a life spent in Ontario Housing on the Finch/Jane corridor.

Why I can’t fight my kids’ battles — well, not all at least — and ensure that their life is easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy, there is something more precious I do owe them.  My epiphany happened during a concert at Tall Girl’s school.  She had “problems” with a girl in her class, and I when I heard that name called out behind me, my head snapped to the face .  A typical mean girl, she was indistinguishable from every other insecure, gawky tween in the gym.  Suddenly, she jumped up and ran to an adult entering the auditorium.  Polished, professional, 4″ heels, hair that had been properly attended to after she got out of the shower, dressed all in navy and cream.  This was a lady who was someone in the world.  But to this little girl, she was Mom.   And all the meanness dropped from her face, and she tried to desperately get Mom’s attention.  Pulling gently on her arm, pleading, swerving her head between eyes and Smartphone.  Then, the resignation that comes from being dismissed and ignored.   And as the heels clicked off, I realized that this is where the poison my daughter sees weeping from the tree, pulled down by gravity onto the next victim.

All this girl wanted, was to be seen.  All everyone really needs, is to be really seen.  Everything important, we do alone.  But it is this alone-ness that I can help, by loving the real kid I have, not the kid of my dreams,  or the kid that I think should have.  What a burden is lifted from us, when we know that the other knows us and accepts us that way.  The first thing you learn in crisis counselling is active listening, or how to rephrase what someone has told you and say it back to them.  I’ve heard you.  We can’t fix every problem, but we can be present, always with love, as our precious children solve their own problems.  And we can hear them, and accept them as they are.  My job as Mom isn’t always to move mountains for my kids.  Sometimes, it will mean being the rock that they can rest on, and letting them know that the true them is never really alone.

Post-script:  That very day, Tall Girl came home with the former-Mean Girl’s phone number.  Bullies often turn on their own, and so too with this girl.  After breaking down in tears in class, Tall brought her to the bathroom and calmed her down.  (“It’s just a natural reaction to help someone who’s crying beside you, Mom.”)  After, she asked for her number.  Like I said, sometimes you just need someone to see the real you.

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Parenthood: Wimps Need Not Apply

It was Maundy Thursday, and for some reason I always think it’s called Maudlin Thursday, (and sometimes I really screw up and call it Maude-y Thursday, like Maude, the TV show.)  Ssince it’s not a sad day, I have no idea why I want to misname it something so depressing.  Unless, of course the weather forecast for the days leading up to Easter weekend look like this:

With warnings like this:

All this when yesterday, the kids were outside in the backyard doing this:

I suppose it toughens you up when you are 3 days outside of Easter, and the kids have to put their snow pants back on. Makes you more hardy. Toughens the skin.

So, just like everything else in life, we look on the bright side and soldier on.  Got my traditional Hot Cross Buns ready for Good Friday, and left them to rise.  Started cleaning the house.  Hung up sopping snow pants and showed everyone the forecast that predicted warm temperatures and sunny skies.  Told the kids and myself that it would melt — just give it a day or two.   Ate supper and hustled the kids into the car for Church.

We arrived in time to sit in front of a family we knew. In fact, their eldest daughter babysits for us. They had a someone new sitting with them — a teenage boy I hadn’t met before, clean cut with a pleasant face. I didn’t give him too much thought.  I was too busy feeling pride that my eldest, Tall Girl was finally taking an interest in her appearance.  She was wearing a pretty purple tunic top, with her hair swept back into a low ponytail, and for the first time in weeks her shoulders were held back, not slouching forward.

It came time to shake hands during the exchange of Peace. The new boy was sitting directly behind Tall Girl, and she couldn’t see him. He was doing the bob and weave with his hand stuck out. I recognized the look of someone with no one to exchanged a greeting. I stuck my hand toward his, and wished him peace.  His face fell. Disappointment. He politely shook my hand with a small smile, and then went back to his bob and weave.

I couldn’t miss the look on his face. He didn’t want to shake a hand, he wanted to shake the hand of the young girl sitting in front of him. I boy, a teen, wanted the attention of my daughter for something other than to return a soccer ball, or talk about a teacher, or just be companionable. He wanted to her attention for the sake of having a girl’s attention.  I felt like my heart broke a little bit over and over again.

I remember all my Grandmas telling me as a young Mom, to not wish the baby days away, that I would miss them when they were gone and kids grow up too fast. I wish now that I had listened better back then.  And that I was a lot tougher.

At least I still have the buns.

PS – I used a Hot Cross Bun recipe from Canadian Living, which I have been doing for 10 years and they always turn out fantastic.

Hello Puberty!

Somethings in parenting slowly creep up on you, like Princess turning into a little lady, and you barely notice the change until suddenly it’s too late.  Other times, you hit up against it like backing into a telephone pole behind your bumper.  Or last week when Tall Girl decided, at least intellectually, to enter puberty.

Okay, okay.  I know it didn’t happen overnight, but it felt like it to me.  It was during the half hour before school.  I was corralling the the kids to make their Scholastic book order choices, so I could write a cheque and send it off.  Tall Girl wanted something whose title sounded like A Bieberful of Bieberness all about, you guessed it, Justin Bieber.  While I have no problem with this so far clean cut kid from small town Ontario, locally he has become a lodestone of derision in the Grade 4 and 5 classes.  And since the book order was being sent through Sweetie Pie’s Grade 4 class, I nixed that idea.

“Nope.”  I said.  “Sweetie Pie will never hear the end of teasing, and she doesn’t even like Justin Bieber.  Pick something else this time.”

I thought I was reasonable.  I said it nicely.  I was even smiling.  But when I looked up from my cheque book, I saw two red rimmed eyes, and a quivering lip.

“Honey, you could get a Gallagher Girls book.  Don’t you want to see how things go at the spy academy?  How about more Goddess Girls?”  I blathered trying to cheer her up.  No success.  She just started crying and crying.  I chased her around the kitchen, proffering Kleenexes and begging her to tell me what was wrong.

“But I don’t know why I’m crying, Mom.”

Oh.  Hi, Puberty.  I wondered when you would get here.

Since then, I’ve seen other signs:  hair smoothed in mirrors when she thinks no one is looking, unmentionables are starting to be hidden away instead of left on the floor in front of her bed, a desire to tackle Romeo and Juliet, phone calls that last 40 minutes.

“I know.”  I overhear he declare to her friend.  “That’s exactly what I thought.”  Finally, someone who understands.  Someone who isn’t her family.  The beginning of bonds cemented all her own.

I can feel and see it already, ever so slightly, the pulling away of this time of her life.  The time when she establishes herself as forever part of this family, but somehow separate from it.  When she begins to reflect on how she was fed, clothed, raised, and taught, and realizes that these were our choices.  And they do not necessarily have to be her choices.   Critical eyes rolling behind my back.  “Why not??” pleaded at the dinner table, proceeding exasperated sighs.  “It’s not fair!”

Maybe not, sweetheart.  Especially not for me, as I have to patiently watch as I lose my child, to gain a young woman.  Good luck to both of us.

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