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This was the hand-written message at the bottom of a Christmas letter from my Great-Aunt. It brought tears of gratitude to my eyes.

This was the hand-written message at the bottom of a Christmas letter from my Great-Aunt. Look how she first wrote “her,” then used white-out and wrote “them” instead. It brought tears of gratitude to my eyes.

Being transgender does not mean what I thought it meant. It doesn’t mean today what it meant when my kid first taught me. In fact, the definition is probably changing right now as I write this, incorporating more ideas, sharpening the concept. I’m going to share with you my rough understanding of it, from my perspective as a parent.

The media coverage I’ve seen on the challenges transgender people face did not prepare me for the challenges their parents face. That process has been an ordeal. It’s a swim through an emotional stew, dipping into and out of the murky grey sea of sex and gender, pride and shame, loss and reward. I have to face all of the hard and icky feelings to get at the good stuff that comes with it.

Thank the gods I became a parent. The best, best, best thing I ever did to help my own education as a human being was to have a child. I’m sure I would have learned more if I had more children, but this only child has helped me grow much closer to the person I always wanted to be.

Tara is the one who is teaching me what it means to be transgender, and how to treat a transgender person. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learned in life. I was raised by a religious mother and a conservative father in tiny, rural communities. This type of upbringing around the world tends not to be supportive of alternate definitions of love, family, sex, and gender. And while my people are good people, I did not have the opportunity to learn about these topics. I am deeply ashamed to admit that when I was 18, as Tara is now, I was outspoken about how homosexuality didn’t make sense in nature, and so shouldn’t be taken seriously. I had never even heard of transgender people then, and I’m certain I would not have been accepting of them.

The most common questions I get when I say that my child is transgender, are “Female to male, or male to female?” and “Has your child had an operation yet?”

Just like them, I yearn to place people into simple categories, binary if possible, and assign distinct characteristics to them, so I can know where I stand and then move on to the next category. Categorizing people was probably really handy 3 million years ago on the African savanna when humans were only recently upright and spent most of the day surviving. But in the 21st century it gets in the way. It got in the way when Tara finally told me they are transgender.

Strangely, rather than the day when we talked about what it means to be lesbian, it was the day Tara talked to me about being transgender that finally forced me to consider that this was not a phase. Instead of exploring the idea of homosexuality for a couple of years, then drifting back to heterosexuality as I expected, Tara just kept going farther from the norm. Not that I was actively insisting that my kid was heterosexual, I just hadn’t given it any serious thought. I had decided everything would ‘work out’ in the end to something that would make sense to me, and in the meantime it wasn’t important enough to dwell upon.

About two years before our talk about being transgender, middle-schooler Tara had asked, in tears, in an apprehensive voice, “What if I’m a lesbian, Mom? What does that mean about me?” This question didn’t scare me because the categories were easy: females and love. Those are two words I am used to defining. I told Tara to stay away from a label like “lesbian,” and just stick with the facts. “You like girls, that’s all it means about you. And liking girls doesn’t change who you are.” The girl-crush thing persisted, and I wondered whether it was my fault for making my kid that way, because I can never seem to find the right man for myself.

But see what I was doing there? I was judging Tara, doing exactly what I had done as a teenager: dismissing the preposterous idea, assuming it was a phase, assuming it was not important, assuming it was something I could have caused, waiting for Tara to turn out ‘normal.’ What kind of subconscious unsupportive messages was I sending to my own child? I am appalled at my own behavior.

The day of The Talk, I sat on Tara’s bed while they explained that a dictionary definition of “transgender” is a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s biological sex assigned at birth. It can mean a person born a boy feels like a girl, or vice versa, but does not necessarily mean that.

Gender is a person’s individual awareness or identity or role that they fill. Sex is a person’s physical anatomy. Tara was born with female anatomy, but explained they did not feel female. And the startling part: they do not feel male either. Tara asked me on that day to stop using the pronouns “she” and “her,” and to use “they” and “their” instead. They do not even feel as though their gender is fixed, but that it moves from day to day.

“Think of a spectrum in the shape of a triangle,” Tara told me with wisdom, clarity, and calm that belied their 16 years of life. “On one point is a concentration of female qualities, one is male, and one is no gender. As you go toward the middle of the triangle, you move away from one gender and take up parts of the others. I am somewhere in the middle, and on some days I feel more female, some days more male, and some days I don’t feel either. I cannot predict how I’m going to feel, but usually I can tell when I wake up in the morning.”

I asked how this is different from what everyone feels. Doesn’t every person feel a little female some days, a little male some days? Tara was certain that it is not the same thing, but had a hard time clearly explaining the difference. For a time we settled on this concept of change, of “fluid gender,” and later we used “gender neutral.” I asked if they thought their gender would always be in a state of flux, or if the changes are a part of trying to figure out who they are. Tara said they didn’t know yet. There was a period where Tara got completely fed up with both male and female, and began identifying as “agendered,” meaning neither male nor female. Even within the very tolerant community that Tara has built around themself, there was pushback. People simply hate vagueness.

Tara’s current preference is “non-binary gender,” to emphasize the fact that gender is not either-or. But I still struggle to grasp the real meaning of Tara’s identity. They say that it is hurtful to be thought of as female or male. “Each time a person calls me ‘she’ isn’t that bad, but what happens is that after a series of people thinking of me as a girl, all day long, it becomes very painful. So uncomfortable that it hurts.” I asked, “How is it different from when, for example, people make incorrect assumptions of me because they see me as female,” I asked. “They think I am not smart enough or strong enough to handle something. How is what you feel different from that kind of pain?” Tara answered that they can’t really explain the difference, except that when it happens, they feel two distinct reactions. One is that the person wrongly assumes they are female, and two is that the person wrongly assumes they aren’t smart enough or strong enough. “They aren’t the same reaction, they aren’t the same kind of hurt.”

It was over two years ago, The Talk, and the trauma of it lingers. I won’t kid you: I was stunned. I was so confused that I couldn’t even begin to respond to Tara. My questions along the lines of “Aren’t you simply giving a high-falutin’ name to what everybody feels?” were based not in love, but in denial. I was trying to flush out the proof that it was not real. I was mostly in shock, but at least able to recognize that this was a pivotal moment in my child’s life. The only thing I could do was to help Tara get it out and to feel safe talking to me. I said,  “Tell me more about that,” when I wasn’t sure I could handle hearing much more. The more Tara talked, the more I felt part of my world breaking apart and falling out from under my feet. Out of loss.

I don’t know if I can explain it, but my love, respect, and appreciation for Tara never wavered. In fact, I was a bit in awe of the kid for having the presence of mind to initiate this conversation with me, and to stick with it while I was so obviously gobsmacked. But I was flooded with a profound sense of loss. It felt like I lost my child that day. I lost my daughter. The one I had constructed in my mind because…well, how was I supposed to know I had to keep my mind open to something else? I just assigned “girl category,” and filled in all the rest.

For the next few days I was in a deep depression and I experienced a very real grieving process. I felt sorry for myself. I cried and cried. It was so hard to explain it to friends, “I have to give up who I thought my child was, and give up the future dreams, like marriage and children. There will be no giggling over boyfriends, not ever. Well, of course Tara can still get married and raise children, but every bit of it will be different than what I had imagined.  Not that it’s bad…it’s just…confusing. And unexpected.” My friends, bless their hearts, gave me hugs and didn’t quite understand what I believed I was giving up.

My own child was not who I thought. Sixteen years of a relationship based on misconceptions. It really, really hurt to face that.

“I can be physically attracted to just about anyone,” Tara corrects me today. “I could easily have a boyfriend one day and children. It’s just another vagueness of my future I am not sure of. My non-traditional identification stems from gender and sex, and also how I choose to appear and how I define my romantic relationships.” Just for context, Tara’s been in a relationship with another transgender person for three years, so the boyfriend comment is more to make a point. “Brynnen are you Tara’s boyfriend?” I asked, “Yes,” they answered without hesitation. And it was a relief to laugh.

Two years later, we are the same tight team we have always been, and – get this! – I am actually not assigning Tara into a gender category in my mind so much anymore. I didn’t realize it was possible, but with time, I am able to give up “female.” I am getting much better at using the difficult pronouns, which for a somewhat OCD grammar-freak, is extremely difficult when I’m constantly using a plural pronoun to describe an individual person. I am doing better at using “them/they” at work and with relatives and acquaintances. Without exasperation or anxiety, I can respond to their confused questions, calmly explaining that I am only talking about one person, and Tara prefers that I use those pronouns.

I am not over it. I hate it that I am not. Who knew I would so stubbornly cling to my traditional upbringing when I have made it a point most of my life to be as open-minded and tolerant as I can possibly be?

But I am not sorry for myself anymore, which allows me to give more of the emotional validation that my kid needs from me. I’m on board, and I actually get irritated when I fill out forms and have to check a box to identify myself as male or for female. These days, I often check male, to be difficult, because I’m finally starting to understand how frustrating it could be to live in a binary world. And I’m done thinking of it as a phase. This person who has been right next to me all these years, is actually way more genuine and brave than the one I gave up.

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Kids in Idaho line up on a pipe to watch chickens, 4th of July, 2013

Kids in Idaho line up on a pipe to watch chickens, 4th of July, 2013

Today I am working on my annual Christmas letter. It’s a Big Deal.

I’ve been writing big long Christmas letters for a very long time. There came a point when I realized that I was not finding time to write and tell everyone what was going on in my life as often as I liked. In fact I was fairly certain that my annual Christmas card was the only time I wrote some of the people in my address book. In the mid 1990s there was no facebook to keep in touch with everybody. So I decided to write a nice long letter with pictures, to be suitable for someone I had written a letter to the week before, or for someone who hadn’t heard from me in a year.

It is on those years when I’m really, really late that I realize how much people like getting them. I have had worried inquires, “You haven’t dropped me from your list? I count on getting your letter every year!”

But on the years when I’m on time, I also get thank you notes from girlfriends who say, “I saved your letter till Saturday morning, so I could read it with a cup of coffee, and savor every page.”

The letters aren’t that amazing. They’re just long (4 pages typed), and silly, and dramatic, and honest. I really honestly DO put everything that happened to us in each letter. So…people hear about the latest report card as often as they hear about the latest breakup. I told about the heartache of foreclosure and divorce, but I also told about the thrill of traveling to Greece and Turkey, and about my baby girl learning to walk and her first day at school, and about our plans and schemes.

And maybe that’s what people like: I’m putting it all out there. Mine is a real life. It’s embarrassing and awesome. I’m proud, and plaintive, and naive, and egotistical, and generous, and ridiculous, and beautiful, and inspiring. Maybe people feel good to see that their life is probably not fundamentally different than mine? Could be.

Anyhoo….

So I’m skimming all my photos from 2013, choosing what to put into this year’s letter. I found this one and remembered how much I LOVE it! We had just purchased fireworks at a dinky little trailer parked near Dan’s Ferry, on the Snake River in Idaho. I saw the scene and commented to Arno, “I wish I could take a picture of that.” He said, “Your camera’s in the truck. Go get it.” I just looked wistfully at the children. He got more insistent, “GO! Get the camera!” So I ran off and came back and they were all still there, and look at what a great scene it was.

Memories are wonderful to me. That’s why I’ve kept a journal since I was 7 years old, and why I blog now. That’s why I make the effort to write a full report every time I take a trip, endure an event, begin something new, or remember to keep in contact with friends and family. It’s so helpful to me to look through the old records and see how I’ve changed, how I’ve grown, how I’ve regressed. It’s good to be reminded what really happened, as opposed to how I remember it. It’s good to remember how much the pain hurt me, or how deliriously happy I was. If I hadn’t taken this photo, I would have forgotten it (thank you Arno). If I hadn’t saved the photo or reviewed old files, I would have forgotten it. But now that I remember, what a fun smile came to my face, and a happy warm glow of memory from that stormy evening last summer.

{Curious? I’ve posted all of them at my website here.}

My vision is slowly clearing up from the frosted glasses I wore in my last relationship. For me, three months is a long time to snap out of it. I am used to feeling freedom and joy almost the instant I get away from whatever man I’ve leeched myself onto.

What explains the gradual drift away from him, rather than a sudden snap to consciousness? I’d like to believe it’s a sign that I have grown as a person enough to leave a relationship before I am on the edge of despair. In the past, I have left relationships as a last-ditch effort to survive. My grieving the betrayal and loss of most relationships occurs while still officially in them. This time I left earlier in the process, and so maybe I continued the grieving once I was gone. Maybe I’m getting wiser.

In any case, my cathartic experience was Monday, when I finally moved the last of my stuff out of the house and over to my new rental place. In the process of hauling stuff out of the basement, I passed a sickening sight. He’s got a bunch of trash and furniture strewed at random along the side of the house. Who knows how long it’s been there – a month? Plastic, wires, broken things, tools, and painfully- furniture. For example, a pine hutch for the kitchen with cupboards and a drawer. It was in perfect condition when I left. It is now beyond salvage; warped and bleached from rain and weather. One of the pieces was a large oak entertainment center that I had come to get. He had at least laid a piece of plastic on top, but the base was in three inches of standing water. The bottom trim is warped and blackened with mold.

“Just like common white trash,” I thought to myself. “Leaving a bunch of stuff outside in the yard to get ruined.” I wondered: Who is this person who is so thoughtless and careless?

And it hit me: there is no difference in this behavior than anything I knew about him in our six years together. This is how he has always been. He has carelessly smashed half our dishes over the years. When we moved he piled everything in a jumble in the moving van so nearly all our wooden furniture is damaged now (that is, the stuff that wasn’t totally ruined). He stacked spare tires on a rocking chair, so that when we unpacked the chair the fabric cushions had ground-in black rubber. Ruined. It doesn’t occur to him to place any extra value on things that are expensive or of quality construction: to him, no things are valuable. In one way, it could be said that he is not beholden to material objects, but on the other hand – since we have often struggled for money – he was thoughtless and careless not to consider that everything he ruined had to be replaced. For a price. Sometimes the things he ruined had nostalgic value to me and can never be replaced.

The difference is that I am no longer there to walk behind him and clean up his messes.

My transformative thought was that the whole damn relationship was probably me! The catharsis is that I am relieved to know that I was correct to leave him. He isn’t only careless with furniture; he is careless with his life. He does not cherish his friends, and he does not cherish his family. I thought back over all the catastrophes he helped create and maintain, and I thought back over the lies that I told to my family and my friends to protect and support him, and to protect myself from my embarrassment and shame. Like when he was unemployed for 14 months and I helped him maintain all his excuses and lies about why he wasn’t employed. Yes, the economy was bad – a perfect alibi. But I didn’t tell anyone the truth. Such as the time he got a job offer, and let it go.

I am angry at myself (No, not at him; I feel sorry for him.) for not learning this lesson yet. I am a world-class enabler and after forty years and hundreds of relationships (well, it SEEMS like it!), I just cannot seem to learn to stop it.

I need to stop valuing people according to their potential, and begin placing value on what they actually do with their potential. I glom onto a man believing that with support and encouragement, he could be the man he truly is inside! I give, and give, and give until I am sucked dry, and there is nothing to show for my investment. And my bonus gift is that they always (Always.) find a way to spin it so that I am the one who betrayed. I am the one who let it fall apart. I am the evil trickster.

He said to me recently that he has watched me fall into deep depression in the past two years (actually, I have indeed been depressed a lot). He said I am the most depressed person he knows. “I am truly worried about you without me there to look out for you,” he says. “Now that you’re gone you will withdraw from life and sink more deeply into your depression. It drives me crazy because everything you want, I give you, but you can’t be satisfied with anything. You think leaving me will solve all your problems, but you had all you ever needed with me, and refused to see it.”

For the last year I’ve believed him when he told me what a dark soul I was, dragging him down when otherwise he would be happy. Today I say back to him as Eowyn said to Wormtongue, “Your words are poison.” I will no longer listen.

I am now free to try again to live up to my own potential. It is a beautiful, limitless path with brilliant possibility.

I’m grumpy grumpy grumpy today. All day yesterday I was in such a stew I couldn’t even do anything. It was Saturday. I’ve got LISTS of things scattered around the house of all I wish I could do if I ever got the time. And rather than get stuff done, I pretty much just crouched in front of the fire. Grumpy. And cold.

I’m such a puss. The cold has a lot to do with it. Such a simple little reason and that’s probably why I don’t give myself permission to recognize the power it has. I read one of my favourite blogs this morning, and she said the same thing. Being cold, wearing clothes that are too tight, or whatever dumb little thing it is, can wreck my day.

I want to be more of a spiritual powerhouse than that.

I have been humbled in the past year by the work of my boyfriend in his AA community. The guy has taken over a leadership role and is working his butt off to be more of what he wants to be in his community. Then, he saw that his family was beginning to suffer from his constant absences to take care of his AA commitments and sponsorships, so he shifted gears and began telling the guys “no” so he could spend more time with us.

I see him walking a path to evolving spirituality, and I know I should be walking it too. In fact, I know I want to walk it. So what is stopping me?

Because I have drifted so far from my own authenticity, I get angry at all the things around me that are “causing” my poor mood. The cold, the tight clothes, my boyfriend putting the toothpaste on the wrong side of the sink. I am fighting to avoid facing the reality that my joy is right here inside of me no matter what the weather is.

I am fighting to avoid knowing that I can’t view my life accurately until I find humility. Mark’s buddies in AA know that to be happy, they have to save another drunk and stop thinking about themselves. I don’t think I need to save a drunk, but I do desperately need to find a way to get out of my head and start giving more. I am very good at being generous and helping, so I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to lapse into selfishness.

It’s my chore for the week then. Find humility and stop being so damn cranky. My mother is coming on Thursday to stay for a week. It might be the perfect time to practice humility and generosity.

wealth

The veggies are still exploding with growth. It’s too much for our small family of three to eat on our own, and we are “forced” to give much away.

It makes me feel rich. And spoiled. We pull in heaps of dark red tomatoes several times a week. I’m plucking deep red and yellow peppers off the bush. Watching the watermelon and pumpkin mature.  Tossing fresh basil into the stir fry just because we can. Best of all, my daughter has been given no holds barred permission to eat whatever she wants from the garden, whenever she wants, so she does.

I am very grateful for the beauty and wealth in my modest, little slice of life.

That most of the time, if you’re patient, I’ll eventually get it. Thanks for waiting for me and for having faith. ❤

girlfriends

I was just browsing through old photos and found this one on my flickr accout. My girlie two years ago, her friend Polly from Brazil, and Sara from Boston’s inner city. I love this photo. There is a lot of joy captured here, and it spills over me whenever I look at this picture.

Mark helped me out of a panic yesterday (it’s a good thing we take turns freaking out, that way we can always be there for each other, heh). I was struck because tomorrow is February first, the day the mortgage is due. It will be the third month in a row we can’t pay.

I honestly believe we have done what we can to find Mark a job. He applies for every single thing that comes up – no joke. From water bottle delivery person, to Home Depot cashier, to secretary at Bonneville Dam. And yes, every single environmental job of any kind that is advertised, he pours his effort into, because he’s a soil scientist.

We have spread the word to friends. He’s got all his buddies at his AA meetings keeping an eye out, like the guy who hooked him up with an interview at CH2M Hill. The Uncles work for TriMet, and we’ve asked them a couple of times to bug the ears of the hiring squad. My co-worker DB and her husband who works at the US Army Corps of Engineers has also been giving us regular updates and keeping us inspired.

….there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. The team leader from CH2M Hill actually called Mark up yesterday and told him the company just can’t afford to fill the positions they had advertised, and they canceled the hiring altogether. He apologized to Mark, and said when they do start hiring again, he’s one of the top people on the list. Well. That’s something, anyway.

So when you’ve done all you can and it isn’t enough, a person is tempted to FREAK THE HECK OUT!!

But Mark reminded me that it’s only scary to think of losing the house if we are convinced we have to have the house for happiness. “So what if we have to leave this house?” he said. “Then we move into an apartment. It’s not a big deal, we’ll be fine.”

He said he has been really focusing on a morning meditation where he thinks of all the good in his life and and evening meditation where he takes note of all the good of the day he just lived. He says it’s really working. (Thanks Brian)

“I just got tired of waking up at 2 am full of fear,” he said. “And this coming from me, Mr. Negative.”

Well, I’m generally the most positive person in the house. But even upbeat people can get beat down some days, and I’m glad glad once more for my perfect family.

almost 40

That’s it: I turned 39. My “thirties” are just about over. Egad, what a tumultous time. Holy cowabunga that was a lot to go through in only ten years.

A long time ago, my grandmother (who refuses to be called ‘grandmother,’ so we combine her name, Ellarmilda, and Grandmother, and call her Gramilda) told me, “Life begins at 40.” She said at 40 she knew enough about herself to start living each day more fully, and she got more joy out of life, and she didn’t worry about the small stuff so much anymore, and her kids were grown up and she didn’t have to expend so much energy on them and could get back to her own life, etc. etc. She simply beamed.

I was so convinced, that I’ve been looking forward to 40 ever since. But now I’m awfully close to 40, and I don’t buy it anymore. Life just gets harder and harder. True living was when I was in my twenties, and just DID whatever came to my silly noggin. And I thrilled in every moment of it and spread my joy far and wide and didn’t ask if anyone was in the mood to receive it.

My thirties started off with an incredible growth spurt, when at age 30 I went through a total spiritual and psychological transformation and became me finally. I suspect that’s what Gramilda was talking about. It’s hard to live authentically, but I get so much more joy out of life now, I feel like I’m participating more fully, I am able to take more responsibility for what I do to myself. And I’m able to keep up my hope when I realize my ups and downs are entirely dependent upon my efforts to work hard, work smart, and keep a healthy perspective.

her smile is my motivation

By the end of my thirties though, I am tired. It’s not just hard to live authentically; it’s exhausting. I have a growing tendency to slip into temporary denial just so I can quit freaking out all the time. If I am aware, then I have to be fully aware. I have to care and become educated about everything, or I shouldn’t form a single opinion or make a single sentence. That’s unrealistic, of course, but I’m having a hard time finding a nice balance. I make one dumb remark, and beat myself up for it for the next 6 months.

Problem is, I can be such a spontaneous, passionate person! I love that about myself, but it sure does lead one to trouble. 🙂  I eat foot sandwiches all the time.

So what will my forties bring?

Based on the success of last year’s list, which I was so delighted to find recently, I will make another list, and try to be focused, grounded, grateful, genuine, humble, and open to my future – whatever it is.

My fantasies for 2009:
1. Have enough money to start paying the mortgage again, however that comes about
2. Make time to have fun with my daughter and not be such a mom all the time
3. See Marcus Eaton live again
4. Use my frequent flier miles to go somewhere amazing
5. See all three of my brothers in the flesh
6. Gain some self-confidence at work so that no matter how many times my coach tells me to do more, I don’t take it as such a personal blow
7. Finish my Shemya book. Even in draft form. If I wrote 45,000 words in 2008, I can do it again in 2009, and be done.
8. Stay open to what the Universe provides for me. Stop trying to bully my way through. Stop trying to control the direction. Stop trying to control the definition of my success, and my path toward it. Give it up. Have some peace. Accept help from others. Be graceful in acknowledging my ignorance, while maintaining my strength and confidence and power and beauty.

Wish me luck. And I’ll wish you love

“Why are some people broken by one tragedy, and others can not only withstand many tragedies, but also turn them into opportunities to serve others who suffer?”

This morning I read April’s latest blog entry, and was compelled to respond. April asked the question above. She brought up several questions I have asked myself before, and I used her blog as a chance to put into words the blobs of thought that had glommed around in my noggin for years now.

April’s mother died, and she has been gracious enough to share her grieving process on her Gaia blog, so the rest of us can learn and grow too. My comment on her blog is below:
______________________________

I agree that we all have the potential to be resilient. I can’t answer your questions, but I do have my own thoughts. I think our responses in life are related to our genetics and to our personal history.

We are inherently self-absorbed. That is a good thing, because deep in our cores, we must be driven by survival if nothing else, and who better to look out for us than ourselves? It’s just that our lives no longer resemble competition among other wild creatures for food and warmth like it used to, so what we are designed to do simply isn’t what we need anymore. We are now in a modern environment in which different skills are called for. Our valuable inherent traits of being selfish have less healthy usefulness a couple million years after we perfected them. Now, what do we do with ourselves?

Like domesticated dogs evolved from wild, running, hunting beasts, but now kept inside someone’s apartment all day long… some of us just can’t live the life we have and stay healthy. Sometimes those dogs go batty and bark themselves silly for 8 hours straight, or sometimes they get depressed. Humans have lots of ways to direct the confused energy.

To actually deal with our natures in a healthy way takes SO much work, as you well know. Not everyone wants to. Not everyone has faith that the work will pay off, and are less motivated to start.

I think a person can be forced to learn a skill like resilience. Say, for example, growing up in a family where kids are not much of a priority. When you get older, and get in a tough spot, you recall that in the past you found a way to take care of yourself even though you were scared and didn’t know how to do it at first. If you rack up a series of successful resilience memories, you will probably incorporate that knowledge into your toolbox. If you just got beaten back down more often than not, you probably will try something else first, before you try resilience.

Well, geez. What the heck do I know? ha ha. In any case, I have the same questions as you, and that’s why I had so much to say about it. It is a gift your mother gave to you: your resilience. She may not have known she was gifting you, but it’s still one of the greatest things you ever got from anyone!

Thank you dear friend, for this chance to clarify a few of my own thoughts for myself using your time and space. I hope that you find yourself surrounded by love and support each time you look up.

My growing girl in a cherry tree

It has been fun watching my daughter grow up. I’m not one of those moms who ever says, “Oh, I just want to keep her a baby as long as possible.”

I adore my kid. I think she’s so smart, and so funny, and so genuinely caring. I can’t help but be proud of her amazing life. I have already learned from her. What a gift she is to me.

We’ve been brushing up against the “growing up” topics for about a year now. We’ve had many many “period” talks, till her questions of the mystical nature of being a woman were somewhat satisfied. And then the more practical side came up. “Why do people use tampons? Doesn’t it hurt?”  I realized that we needed to address it for real. So I bought a box of pads and a box of tampons and we sat at the breakfast table and I had her open up whatever she wanted. She poked at them, and pulled and wadded and then tore one to bits. I got a glass of water for her and she poured water and dunked them and played with the adhesive parts and opened a couple more.

After awhile, I could tell she was completely satisfied. She looked up at me, and then started cleaning it all up. She asked if she could take some of it to Dad’s house and leave some at my house.

No more mystery. Not as scary. Now all the stories her 5th grader girlfriends tell her won’t freak her out so much anymore. Man, I wish someone had done that for me. I got all my education on the playground and by stealthily reading the backs of boxes in the feminine hygiene products aisle at Shaver’s grocery store.

Sunday it was stage two. She asked if I would speak with her in her bedroom. Alone. So we trotted up there and she explained that some girls had teased her about the hair in her armpits. She said, “I didn’t realize I was at the age where I was supposed to be shaving! I didn’t know it was time.”

So, I explained that there is no “time.” It doesn’t have anything to do with age. It is completely up to her when she shaves or even whether she ever shaves. I really tried to diffuse the peer pressure, but it was too late. She had made up her mind that it was time. Which, I guess, is the way to go about it – wait for it to be her decision.

I did try to beat her little friends to the next one though, and told her to wait on shaving her legs. “In fact,” I said, “If you never shave your legs, the hair will stay light and fine. Because as soon as you begin, it comes out like whiskers and then you have no choice.” To my pleasure, she had already heard this, and was glad to hear my reinforcement of what someone else’s mom had said.

She wanted me to recommend a brand of razor. And I told her what I use. And since I always have extras, I gave her one and popped her into the shower and gave her a 5-minute crash course. She was scared about how to do it, scared of cutting herself. I told her about how to move the razor, how not to ever share or  borrow, how some people’s skin needs to be wet or it breaks out in a rash.

This stuff is *so* exciting for me. It’s silly to be this excited maybe. And I’m not a girly girl by any means, so girl stuff in general usually causes me to roll my eyes. But I can’t help but feel a thrill that my little one is not so little anymore.

Good luck my love. Go out into that big world and be who you are!

One of my many guises

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