Friday, March 1, 2013

The Girl Hero & The Mom Manifesto

My girl is turning 12 tomorrow.

My kids' birthdays always unravel me on the inside just a little. I'm overcome with nostalgia and joy, regret and worry. But mostly I'm overwhelmed by the desire to grip the clock with all my might and just make it stop. It's been said a million times because it's true: babies grow up entirely too fast.

This girl is a wonder to me in every way: inquisitive and intense, creative and dramatic, thoughtful and lovely and longing to do a thousand different things with her life. She wants to be everything from an astronaut to a marine biologist to a judge to a baker / artist.

More than anything, however, she wants to have a career in which she gets to ask lots of questions. Her statement that she wants to be "a rich missionary like Oprah" now lives in infamy. She figures that following in Oprah's footsteps will allow her the opportunity to ask questions for a living, enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, and still accomplish a lot of good in the world.

She's a tiny wisp of a thing but don't let her diminutive, blonde-haired, blue-eyed self fool you. She has an inner strength that I envy, an unflinching honesty that makes me want to cheer...and sometimes cringe. Just this week she commandeered her friend's fancy stolen pencil from a girl who's been in at least two fights this year. Refusing to leave second period without justice being served, she detected a weak spot in the girl's defense, called her on it, and refused to stop the interrogation until she retrieved the pencil.

I would have never done that in the 6th grade. Never. In my 7th grade gym class, a school bully who was twice my size and had a criminal entourage to boot, stole my paisley Swatch. The Swatch that my beloved uncle brought me from Switzerland. The Swatch that was my prize possession. A friend of mine spotted the girl bully wearing my Swatch in math class and with literal fear and trembling, I approached the thief and her posse later in the cafeteria. With quaking voice, I humbly asked for my Swatch. She did not give it to me. But she was kind enough to allow me to buy it back.

So fraidy-cat me scraped together $10 and didn't tell a soul. I bought back my own Swatch from a 7th-grade female terrorist.

The point to this story is that my daughter is far braver and bolder than I was. And if she can survive her school days without getting beat up, her bravery and justice will serve her well. 

Though I love my babies fiercely, I tend to see their struggles and weaknesses, sins and character flaws with far greater clarity than I see their strengths. I tend to discipline and reprimand and redirect more than I applaud and encourage and accept. One of motherhood's greatest challenges, for me at least, is loving my kids totally and completely for who they are instead of who I want them to be.

And isn't that one of our greatest longings for ourselves? To be loved totally and completely for who we are, instead of who we're not. To know that those closest to us would tell us what our high school yearbooks did: You're so awesome. Don't ever change. LYLAS!

Mother-daughter relationships seem especially tricky to navigate. Between the projection and the vicariousness and the estrogen, relationship can get a little crazy. A mama's hopes can feel like a daughter's duty. And a daughter's independence and originality can feel like treachery to the mama. Don't believe me? Just watch an episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

I spent the first...probably 8-ish years trying to make my own girl into who I wanted her to be. I knew that a lesser-willed child would have made my life a lot easier and been the vehicle through which my own pink-tulled visions for her could come to fruition. Admitting that is more painful than I can tell you.

I wish I'd let her wear the kooky outfits and clashing colors and plastic tiaras to the grocery store and preschool and church. I fought ten thousand pointless battles that undermined her freedom and squashed my joy. During those early years, I was so intent on getting it right and taming that strong will that we both missed out on a ton of fun.

But several years ago we made a deal. I vowed not to pressure her into anything that didn't feel true to who she was. She vowed to be honest with me and not make decisions solely to please me.

We have six years together until she leaves for college and the rest of my mother / daughter manifesto is this:

1. Love her for who she is.

2. Choose to see her strengths above her weaknesses.

3. Listen when she's ready to talk, even if I'm bone-tired and just want to go to bed.

4. Chase her dreams with her. Even if I think they're ridiculous. And even if the last thing I want her to do is to try out for the cheerleading team instead of going out for cross-county which is what she wants to do in a couple of months and somebody please hold my hand and tell me to keep smiling and just support her.

5. Quit worrying so much about how she'll "turn out" and simply embrace right now. Enjoy our todays, hormonal imbalances and all.

6. Keep telling her she's beautiful even if it's not getting through and even if she says that I'm her mom and I have say that.

7. Sympathize when her haircuts don't turn out the way she wants and her "knees are ugly" and her ponytails have "too many bumps" and her "ankles look weird." {Because do I honestly think that telling her to quit self-obsessing is really going to make her stop? Does telling that to any female actually make her stop? This kind of crazy think is irrational and therefore impossible to reason away.}

8. Trust that God believes in her even when she's not sure that she believes in Him.

9. Do more "frivolous" things together, even though they cost money and even though it seems less than sensible. It's an investment in our relationship and therefore not a waste.

10. Pray. For her and with her. 


{This will likely be one of my last posts about her. She's getting older and my storytelling, as it pertains to her, will have to respect her privacy and lean more toward the vague than the specific. And that's as it should be.}

Happy birthday. You'll forever be my girl-hero.

1 comment:

  1. I love your mother/daughter manifesto, and hope I can keep that uppermost in my mind as my daughter makes the same journey. Thanks for your honesty.


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