Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hard Lessons to Learn and Share

It was a snowy morning when my husband was going to the store to pick up a few things. He asked who wanted to go. 2 of my kids said no, but my 9 1/2 year old, Colleen, said she would. She went to get dressed and came back to me and said, "I am afraid to drive in the snow."
"Then don't go, honey. You don't have to."
"Yes I do." 
"Why?" I asked.
"To make sure everything goes OK."
My heart hurt a bit. "How can you make sure everything will go OK?"
She shrugged. "I don't know."
"It isn't your job to make sure everything is OK. You just need to worry about you. Not something like this."
She looked at me with a nervous smile, put on her coat and shoes.
"Do you understand that it is perfectly fine for you to stay here?"
And off she went.

Not 10 minutes earlier had I read this article: 

10 Things I Want My Daughter To Know Before She Turns 10

I had read the article and asked myself, "How do I impart these wise thoughts on my ever pleasing eldest girl when I don't know how to live by them myself?" I have decided it has become another instance of: Do as I say, not as I do. Learn from my mistakes. Let me guide you around the road blocks still present in your mom, 4 times your age. 

I don't think I am some terrible type of person I don't want her to be. I just know that I was the only girl in a family of boys. I learned so many wonderful things through that experience, and I love the nurturer it made me. Even as the youngest, I knew where all my brothers' shoes were and reminded about back packs and baked them treats. I was proud of it all. What also came with it was the need to please others and make sure everyone was happy and OK. I can't honestly say what came first: The nature or the nurture. I was the baby and I was that way. Colleen is the oldest and she is that way. I don't know if it is just something built in to a girl or something built in to my genes. 

Something that hasn't showed up in her yet, or maybe ever, is the bite that my mom and I have. The bite that allows us to rebel in words and in our thoughts. We still do make ourselves crazed with pleasing, but at least we have the rage about it that allows us to speak out about it every now and then. It may be the only thing that makes us sane. Of course, no one is asking us to please them, really. It is a demand we have put upon ourselves. We have only ourselves to rage against.

I have talked to Colleen about asking for help. Told her about the deep wells I was plunged into when I never asked a question in Math class and could never catch up. I have held her hands and said, "Don't do that to yourself. As someone who suffered it, it was horrible. And as the teacher I became, I am heartbroken for the Kate who never reached out and for the teacher who never noticed." She nods fervently at me with big tears in her deep blue eyes. But I know she won't ask a thing. I hope she will, but...I just pray my husband and I can keep up with the "new math" until she graduates.

I think my next talk may be about how she and I, together, are going to work on making sure we are kind and helpful to others, but are better care taker of ourselves. I don't need to pass on panic attacks with my poor eyesight and acne. I don't need to pass on worries about friendships along with crazy hair and a weighty bum. 
It can be my gift to her future and my 40th Birthday present to myself. 

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