Friday, January 11, 2013

You Be You, I'll Be Me

Continuing on this path of growing and becoming and being one's truth self...

It has become increasing apparent to me that, in so many ways, I am the person who has boxed Sweetie so neatly into a defined package.

I also find myself speaking on Sweetie's behalf an awful lot. Not that Sweetie's disagreed with me on any points in particular - that she voices, anyway. It's just that, in a lot of ways, I make the decisions and she goes along.

I took her to her Grammy's to get a haircut a few months back, and I instructed Grammy on the length and look "we" wanted. I said I wanted it cut to a particular length, and Grammy asked if that length will be okay with Sweetie. I answered, "Oh, she doesn't care what she looks like." Grammy was surprised, "What do you mean, she doesn't care?! Of course she does!" And, as it turned out, Sweetie did care... she actually wanted her hair shorter than I said. In this particular case, she wanted a true "boy" haircut, as she was just about to perform as a boy orphan in a production of "Oliver!" To this, Grammy and I both said no - we were not drastically changing her appearance for 1 weekend's worth of shows. Grammy gave her the bobbed length I originally detailed. 

But still... I spoke for Sweetie on this, as I always have when she gets haircuts, and Sweetie went along with it just fine in the end. In fact I have never asked Sweetie how she wants her hair. I decide, and that's what happens. 

I write here all the time how great and creative and smart and funny and truly amazing Sweetie is in every possible way. Seriously, y'all must want to steal my keyboard from me by now so you don't have to hear it anymore! And, yeah, she's still pretty freakin' awesome - always will be in my eyes. But you know what? There's a different side to her that I'm seeing now that is in stark contrast to how I've always seen my Sweetie.

As her Destination Imagination team leader this year, I am getting a really up close and personal look at how she interacts with her teammates. It's a small team, consisting of Sweetie, another 4th grade girl from a neighboring town that's been with Sweetie for the past 2 years in D.I., and Sweetie's best friend from school, who is new to D.I. this year - a boy in the 5th grade. Every Friday we get together after school, and every Friday I am, 1) shocked at how loud 3 kids can be in general, and 2) appalled at Sweetie's lack of concentration, inability to sit still, and willingness to go along with the others as opposed to eagerness to speak up and present her own ideas.

Yes, I completely get that, as her mother, I see her "issues" during our meetings much more dramatically than any misbehavior that may happen by either of her 2 teammates. But still. In Sweetie, I am not seeing as much of the smart, creative, outgoing girl I thought I knew. Rather, I see her jumping up and switching seats every 5 minutes, when the other 2 stay put where they first land. I see Sweetie having trouble understanding concepts or games, where the other 2 tend to jump right in with both feet. Sweetie's misunderstandings, of course, lead to her whining, "why do they get it and I don't?!" I see her doodling and randomly calling out unrelated things, talking over me and her teammates, when I ask for specific information. And Sweetie has, by and large, taken a back seat to any real planning. She's happy and eager to go along with what is planned, but does not contribute terribly many new ideas to the group.

This is not the Sweetie I thought I knew.

Granted, I'm pretty sure I can recall that her 2 team managers from the previous years have mentioned a similar comment about Sweetie... that she goes along with the group, but rarely provides anything new. They have also casually agreed with me once or twice that it's Sweetie's social development that lags behind a bit, not her intellect. That one I do remember being a bit surprised at. How do they know? Just from 1 meeting a week a few months out of the year? They don't know my Sweetie! But, you know... at the time, and without seeing what they saw, everything's just a statement to me. In one ear, out the other.

Now, I've seen it and I'm, sadly, rather surprised.

But! No matter! DI is team led. Whatever issues they may or may not have amongst each other, is not my problem to resolve. They're a small team this year and must find ways to work together and get things done, come what may. I'm hoping that, because of the small group, I'll start to see Sweetie begin to present ideas and worthwhile contributions to their project. But... my role is really just to be there as a guardrail. Whatever happens in the end for them and their project - so be it. It'll prove to be a learning year for all of us, if nothing else.

But I digress.

Sweetie... She is more than who I've neatly boxed her as. She is who I know her to be, of course. But she is more. She is, in fact, also less. But all of this is good. As I said before. She is growing, changing, finding her place in this world. She is 10. And it's time I started giving her more room to find her way as she sees fit.

Everyday I pick out her clothes and she gets dressed. There's never an argument about this. She never complains. But maybe she'd like to pick out her own clothes sometimes. Occasionally she does this on the weekend, and she does a good job. I always dress her in pants. Maybe, if given a chance, she'd actually choose to wear a skirt sometimes to school. To be honest, it never really crossed my mind that she really cared one way or the other. Well, perhaps she cares. I should give her the chance to show off her style. To develop a style!

She wanted an American Girl Doll for Christmas, as she's wanted one for the past few Christmases. We tell her she doesn't really want one. We point out that she doesn't like to play with dolls. We convince her enough that she removes that wish from her list. No more doll. Well... maybe she does want a doll! Perhaps I and Hubby have almost, subconsciously, smothered her with the idea of how cool it is to be a tomboy of sorts. Heck - it's easier and more fun for us, anyway! Girly-girls are too princess-y. Too fawning and "weak." Too emotional and dramatic! Tomboy girls are cool and interesting and like to build and create and be the superhero! It's great to get out there and play with the boys! Go, Sweetie!

Well... maybe she has a bit of the princess in her. Who knows. Maybe she wants to explore her more feminine side of play. Maybe she wants to play house more than she does. I know she likes to sometimes play school. She loves arts and crafts. I know she enjoys playing whatever it is her few girl friends like to play. She seems to have fun playing at whatever she's given the opportunity to do. And as I keep telling her over and over, girls can do anything! Girls aren't weak and quiet! Be the girl you want to be - whatever that is, that's cool! We should allow her to explore more, I think, and if she wants something we'd classify as a more girly game or toy - so be it. This is Sweetie we're talking about, after all. Not us!

So, yes, Sweetie. As I've said before, you be you! And, with that, I'd love for you to develop your voice more. And I'm sorry if it's largely due to my actions that, at 10 years old, you've not really been given a chance to find who you really are at this point. Speak up! Show us who you want to be - who you are!

As for me... well, I'm taking 2013 to be my year. I read an article recently which stated the dreadful reality that far too many mothers on Facebook, for instance, post as their profile pics pictures of their child(ren). Mothers are hiding behind their children. They're showing the kids - not themselves. Mothers are answering that their kids are good as a response for how are they doing, indicating that "if the kids are good, I must be good too." They are posting funny/poignant/interesting/proud/maddening information about their kids as their status and rarely mentioning any details about their own lives.

And I realize - I do all of this, expertly. I am a fabulous hider. Yes, I take great care of Sweetie. I think I'm a damn good mom. But... who else am I? I really don't know the answer to that. I'm too busy taking care of her to stop and take care of me. To pay attention to who I am and what I need and want.

Well, no more. As I said. 2013 is my year! I've already started by booking myself several doctors appointments. Appointments I haven't followed through on in years. I have oh so many health related issues I've wanted to talk to my doctor about. But I haven't made the time for me before. Now - I'm about to get my health in order and get firmly on my path to wellness and feeling good. As Hubby has always said to me (but I never listened before), he and I have to be the best we can be so that we can raise a good Sweetie. If we don't show her that we care enough to take care of ourselves, what is she going to think about her own health? That it's dismissible? That she's dismissible? That others always come before yourself? That's a wonderful thought and all on the outside, but no. Take care of yourself first, always, so that you can then in turn help take care of those you love.

Happy 2013, Sweetie. The year for you. The year for me. The year we find ourselves, alone, together.