29 June, 2009

"Someone Like Me"

Last night, before she went to sleep I reminded Lucy that she was going to camp this morning, and that her little friend Mali would not be at this session of camp, as she was last week.

Me: There will be lots of other kids your same age at camp.
Lucy: (emphatically) I don't want there to be kids my age!
Me: Why not? It will be fun.
Lucy: Because girls my age don't talk.
Me: (sad for her and kind of proud and disturbed all at once) Oh honey.
Lucy: I want there to be someone like me.

I gave her a big squeeze. I changed the conversation to be more about making new friends. I sang her a Ditty Bops song and I held her and realized that this will be a long road for her because really, there is no one like her.

How many little girls in the whole world live in a little pink room carved out of a bigger room, so small that there is only room for a bed and a fish tank, and a pocket door which she must keep closed to keep her brother who cannot follow rules, or even instructions, from coming in and taking over her little nest? How many other people in the whole world have a brother like Jake, with a mom like Jennyalice and a dad like Descartes? No one. No body, at least, who also has three sets of grandparents, two giant golden retrievers and a scar between her eyes because she ran into the dishwasher at 8 months old. No one who has a mom that drinks and swears like a sailor but makes her say "Yes, please" or "No, thank you" when answering any question.

I'm being an extremist, but I know that ache of trying to find someone, anyone who was like me with out me needing to change to have that feeling. I am 37 1/2 years old and I finally feel like people see the real me most of the time. I keep some things private, even from close friends, out of respect for my marriage, or, more likely my own self-respect, but just recently I feel like I am getting somewhere in my quest to be the same person wherever I go.. and to accept that I might not find anyone like me when I show up somewhere. I used to change who I was to fit in, to feel more comfortable or to make other people feel more okay, but while I am quite certain I am more apt to iron my t-shirt when visiting Southern California, my wrinkle-free look is possibly more to do with an ability to find the time while vacationing to do it rather than a fall to the unrelenting pressure to fit in.

I feel compelled to teach Lucy during every moment, and while doing so I am walking the fine line between raising her to be the best, brightest, leader-of-the-pack, top-of-the-heap while rewarding humility, honesty, selflessness and grace. How do I encourage her to win and to stop and help someone who has fallen on the track? How do I tell her she is the most beautiful creature I've ever seen without impressing on her all of the vanities that girls engage in today? How do I raise this amazing girl when I am hardly past what I am teaching, and not always living up to my own ideals?

[And, as I just re-read this I am a little embarrassed that it is my assumption that she can do all of these things, that it is just a matter of teaching and encouragement, when it is actually possible that she will have no interest or even an aptitude for leading, or helping, or winning or even playing]





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