Raising a woman to be seen.

Of all the things I want to talk about lately, this isn’t one of them. And yet, here I am: hitting the keys trying to figure this out. Not enough people are talking about what it’s like to raise young women. And if they are, I can’t find them.

Being a mom to my kids brings me to my knees on the daily. Taking this one day at a time has never been more relevant to me, if I think too far ahead I’m inept to do anything but crawl into the fetal position and weep. Not because there aren’t wonderful things on the horizon – but because the task at hand has never been so difficult. I could be wrong, in fact, I’m often wrong. I’m learning too. I’ve never done this before.

Jessica is 10 going on 14 and I’ve never been dumber in my entire life, the older my kids get the more they know and the less I do (duh). Peers opinions reign supreme, teachers knowledge comes before real life experience, and hell if I can’t understand how to build a math mountain. Can the children add? Do they know their times tables?

Good enough for me. 😉

Jessica is a beautiful mystery to me. She is wired a lot like her dad, there’s anxious energy inside of both of them. And I have my own version of this. But where I’m in my own world, introverted, introspective; they’re both hovering above the worlds they’re in putting the puzzle together, like puppeteers. Jessica has a need for control, sometimes a paralyzing need. Sometimes this need is so strong it blinds her. And she is ten.

Jessica

Socialization at ten is cruel joke. Or, that’s been our experience so far. It’s not fun. There’s a lot of crying. There’s a lot of wringing of hands as parents wondering if we’re doing anything right. Did we choose the right school? Will another school just defer the same issues? Is the root of this turmoil some where we can reach and touch and love and help and see? Or is the root of this unknown? Is this just what we’ll have to deal with over and over and over again as we sit on a life raft in the middle of this wide open ocean of her social life?

You see, because all I have to go on is my own experience. At ten: I was in fourth grade. My parents were getting divorced, my brothers were older and often out of the house and my sister, I don’t know where she went but she never came back. Life as I knew it was literally over. Nothing was the same. Was blue even really blue? School was my haven. I went early every morning because now my mom had a full time job to support 4 kids as a single parent, and I rode the bus home. Most of my hours were in a safe place every day. There were rules and expectations. I could perform in this environment because it was predictable. I had friends, but I didn’t need them. Other relationships were of no real value to me at ten. I rode my bike to friends’ houses, but I was more interested in being alone in the woods playing by myself. I craved validation from adults. I didn’t care if my peers agreed with me. I wanted to be seen.

I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not fit into a peer group. To be riddled with anxiety over the very fear of being noticed. I wasn’t interested in negative attention, I perfected what it took to receive positive affirmations from my teachers, counselors, and older peers. And I don’t know how to help her.

Here I am, a married adult women in a secure relationship. I’ve done this one thing really well: my kids won’t have divorced parents. And I still can’t create the perfect childhood for my kids. The safe places I never had, they have in spades. Their daddy doesn’t leave them, their siblings don’t reject them. But I can’t create friendships for them.

I’ve known all along that the timeline of my own childhood was in the background of theirs. It’s as if I’m reliving mine through them. I’ve read enough books and been to enough counselors to know that this is my mechanism for coping with the trauma. And at each significant marker – I hit the fan a bit because I brace myself for all the feelings to come back as I revel in the reality that THIS IS DIFFERENT! SEE, THIS CAN BE DIFFERENT!

I have to go back and reconcile the emotions I put into the pottery cavern I’ve kept, shaking and cracking, in the pit of my stomach since I was a small child. Adults were completely unaware that I could see them, that I listened to them. That I would remember what they did, like a wide-eyed panther hunting in the dark.

And I’ve learned that I’m not hungry for the kill, I’m dying of starvation. My hunger isn’t physical. My hunger is relational.

And I don’t know how to help her.

Playing with Jessica

2 thoughts on “Raising a woman to be seen.

  1. It’s been ages since I’ve commented, and even though this is a 3-week old post I just have to say “Yes! Everything…yes!”
    My son is almost 10 and my daughter is almost 8 (plus a 5 year old boy too, but things are still simple with him!). And while they have parts of my personality, ultimately they are their own unique selves. From what you wrote, I had a similar childhood/teen experience (minus divorce, but other unsettling family dysfunction). I loved school (for the academics, not social aspect) and craved the adult recognition, but relished my alone time and powers of invisibility when I wanted it.
    Where am I going with this? I just wish I knew how to help my kids too. And thank you for sharing something so personal and real (as always!). It gives me hope that all these modern moms chatting about all the activities and schedules their kids have may just be as vulnerable and confused about their kids social lives as I am.

  2. Thank you so much! I’ve thought of your comment more often in the recent months and always meant to come back here to tell you. I love the conversation we’ve been able to have over the years, and I know I’m not alone, which is the best feeling ever. 🙂

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