Friday, December 19, 2014

T Minus 1 Year and Counting...

... Until you are officially a teenager. I cannot wrap my brain around that. I just can't. And still, it's true. Because tomorrow is your 12th birthday. Happy Birthday, little girl!

Or... not so little girl. Yes, you're still smallish in stature compared to your average female classmate (you're not quite but very nearly almost my height now, just under 5 ft even), but you've grown so much, mentally and socially - especially within the last 2 months or so. In fact, Daddy and I were talking just a couple weeks ago to each other, sincerely impressed with the young woman you're becoming. It's like a switch has been thrown, really. Daddy, being Daddy, has specifically notice how much your sense of humor has recently matured. You can now take, understand, and deliver a joke way more successfully than in the past. You're appreciating other comics and remembering not only their words, but their delivery, as well as the sometimes punny and/or double entendre meanings behind their funny stories and jokes. You are much better at "yes, and"ing, as Daddy calls it - which, quite honestly, makes living with you much easier than when you were more sensitive to possibly being picked on and teased. Now? You just throw it right back in the best ways ever!

And me? Well, I've noticed your easier flow of speech and your increasing ability to tell a good story. Your ability to be a little more economical with your words. To, basically, just have a more relaxed, easier flow about you in general. I don't know, you just seem more typically teenager-y, but in a good way. :) Even things like small little injuries you may incur. The accident will happen, you'll say "Ow!" and quickly look to see if you're bleeding. Of course, most times you're not, so you just buck up and say, "Nope - I'm good" and move on. No more big drama for little pains. Very little big drama for anything, really. You're pretty much able to take whatever life throws your way with little mess left in its wake.

Not to say there's not the continuing pre-teen angst and common drama surrounding this natural phenomenon called "growing up." You do still have your moments, or even your days. But... I think you're, let's say, getting used to them. And maybe so are we. I think maybe you now know a little better what you need to do, or who you need to go to - or not -  in order to help you return to a more even keel when you do find yourself on unsure footing. Sure, there are always going to be some blow ups that throw you and us for a loop. But we get through it. We all know how to move on. And - bottom line - you know we love you even if we don't know how to help you through a mini blip. Even if we mess up. If you mess up! It's just a blip. We love you and - I am so very grateful for this! - you have a fantastic head on your shoulders full of self respect and humble-but-true love for yourself. That right there, I promise you, will take you far. May you never lose sight of yourself and what you have already accomplished and/or that which you are destined to achieve - both inwardly and for the the rest of the world to take notice of and admire. You make us proud every single day. And I know you're proud of yourself too, as you should be.

This year you've started 6th grade. You're first year as a Middle Schooler! Typically, middle school is just bad news all around. No fun for the growing kid, and no fun for the parents of said kid. But for you? Well... you have just blossomed! And I know we live in a tiny little town with maybe not the best school system ever. But as far as I'm concerned, I have been really impressed with all your new school has to offer for you and your classmates in terms of growth and development opportunities and time set aside each day devoted to catching up and limiting the amount of work brought home. I especially liked the sound of the month long class you just finished - Guidance. A class that helped you and your classmates look to the future school-wise (including college) and career-wise. You figured out from this class that you want to be a mechanical engineer! Very cool. Additionally, this class taught you all a thing or two about respect and honor and just simply being good people. What a great class! And, yes, it was over the course of this class that Daddy and I took a real notice in your own personal growth and development. You ended up getting an A+ in that class! It sure does show, how much you paid attention there, put in the effort and did the work. You are great! (but you already knew that...)

Another thing about Middle School... you've seemed to have finally met one great, true friend. A girl who came over from the next town's elementary school. She just happens to be in every one of your classes (except for 2: your school's versions of Home Room and Study Hall). And she just happens to be a perfect fit for you. You both love Minecraft, and cats, and aren't real girly-girls, and tend to migrate towards boys as friends. You both love school and do well in your studies. You're both what I would call "nerdy gamer girls." Confident nerdy gamer girls at that! We had the pleasure of spending one evening with this new friend and you a couple months back, and now she's set to sleep over at our house tomorrow night in celebration of your birthday. We really like her and can see why you both get along so well.

I was honestly afraid that you - who preferred to spend your elementary school recesses alone even if you did claim to have good friends you could have played with - would get even more lost in the shuffle now that you would be at Middle School with no recesses at all. But... I forgot about The Lunch Table!!!! The all important social status hangout area of the upper grades. You either find your group to bond and eat with from here on out, or you're alone. Thank goodness for this new friend, and the (boy) friends who more or less came along with her from their school. You've gotten yourself a really great core group of tight friends right now. I'm not blind to the benefits these new friends have contributed to your own growth and development as well. And I know you help bring out the best in them! You've finally got some awesome kids to help you learn how to relax more, hang out and chat, have fun, and just "be" with... instead of always being on your own. Great friends really do help you in lots of great ways. Good for you all for being there for each other!!

Tonight we're going for our annual trip to the mall to see Santa - you're request. I asked you a few weeks back if you still wanted to do this, and you looked at me like I had 3 heads. "Duh!" You still believe! And you honestly don't understand why other kids are beginning not to. Actually, you've told us how sad you are for these kids and mad you are at their parents who "take over" buying the Santa gifts and not letting Santa do his job! You know - you just may have something there. Maybe that's it - as soon as a kid starts to doubt, or flat out not believe, then the magic of Santa is lost to them and he no longer comes around to their houses, instead letting the parents take over. So much the better for Santa! Less kids on Christmas Eve night for him to visit. But visit he does, to the true believers such as yourself. Never stop believing!

What more can I say. You're doing fantastic at school with your Honor Roll grades, your teachers are letting us know what a bright, curious, attentive and funny student you are, you've made some really great friends for you, you're looking ahead to your future in a serious and meaningful way, you're humor and speech is more refined, and your belief in magic, love, hope and joy is as strong as ever. You're helpful around the house and kind and respectful to all you meet. And you're still a really great cuddler who loves hanging out with her parents, playing games or watching TV, being held "with two hands" just like you've always preferred. The best parts of you are maturing, growing up and reaching for the future, and you still maintain the best parts of a magical childhood. How much better can it all be?!

So.... T minus 365 more days until you're a teenager. I can't believe it. I don't like this time going by so fast. But, also, I can't wait! I can't wait to see who you're becoming based on the awesome person you currently are. You are all set to blast off and be the most amazing teenager that ever was, I'm sure, ready to take on the world and become a successful, happy and self-assured adult.

And Daddy and me? We'll keep preparing your launching pad for you to give you the best boost we possibly can into the wide, wild world ahead.

Happy Birthday, little girl. We love you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Not a Care in the World

So, this post will fit in nicely with my last one...

Alternate title? She's Just Not There Yet...

Sweetie has recently had the chance to reconnect a bit with some girls she used to know as a toddler. These girls are sisters and are both a bit older than Sweetie - one just a year older, the other now starting 9th grade in the fall. I would not particularly classify them as ever being all "friends" together, one - because they were all so young when they more regularly saw each other, and two - they only saw each other, before, because of Hubby and I interacting with their mom on a professional basis. Sweetie and the girls just sometimes happened to be around during these times.

Anyway, now these girls have all reconnected, and they are all surprised to see how much each other has grown. Common for anyone, really, who hasn't seen a kid in a long time. They do grow up, even though you only know them as that cute little toddler from your memory.

Now, this one girl who's now going into 7th grade - as opposed to Sweetie who's about to enter 6th - seems to have grown into a bubbly, bright personality interested in all the "typical" things that girls her age tend to care about. Sports, music, TV shows, movies, the whole pop culture/Hollywood thing. And so, with that, I've listened to her question Sweetie on her interests.

She started off with, "So, what sports do you play." Quite an innocent, fine question. But funny in my eyes - not "do you like sports?" but "what do you play?" The assumption there that of course Sweetie plays something! It's just that Sweetie doesn't play any sports. I felt the need, as I sat nearby, to help Sweetie on by getting her to tell her old/new friend what she did like. So, she said how she likes theater and also does Destination Imagination during the school year. Oh! At least it turned out that this girl was familiar with DI and had some friends of her own who were in it.

But then she kept asking Sweetie questions of the "what's your favorite song/TV show/singer/movie" variety. And for all of it? Sweetie really doesn't care. She likes songs - even likes to listen to the radio in her room a lot of the time - but claims she doesn't have a particular favorite song, singer or band. Sweetie told her that she likes lots of different songs, but doesn't know who sings them.

Sweetie was also asked if she likes the books/movies Divergent or The Fault in Our Stars. Ha! I laughed to myself. No. Reading in general is not high on Sweetie's enjoyment list, and - if it was - it totally wouldn't be the Divergent or Fault in Our Stars type of book she'd go for. More like Harry Potter or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But apparently, this girl has read all the Divergent books twice and, each book took her only 2 days to read. Well, good for her!

On the way home from one of the recent times we saw this girl, and after the first round of this questioning of Sweetie, I tried to talk to Sweetie and, well, comfort and assure her that it was totally okay that Sweetie had no real interest in the singers, stars and activities that this girl did. Everyone is different and that's okay. And you know what Sweetie said?

"What? It sounds like your trying to comfort me and tell me it's okay that I don't like what she likes. I know that, Mom! I'm totally fine!"

Well, okay then. My work here is done.

Since that time, we've seen this girl once more. And Sweetie was grilled again on what shows she likes, mostly. We, though, don't have "regular" TV and only watch specific things we choose to watch through our Hulu or Netflix accounts. And so The Billboard Awards show that was just on, for instance, wasn't even an option for us to watch. And all the Disney preteen type shows Sweetie was asked about? Well, she's never really seen them enough to care about seeking them out to watch. So, no. No real favorite TV shows either. We tend to watch fun family shows in the evenings that we can all agree upon and enjoy together.

Now, could Sweetie have mentioned how much she likes playing Minecraft and watching all the Minecraft related videos she can find on Youtube? Sure she could have. But I think Sweetie got the sense that this girl was probably not a Minecraft type of girl, so she just stayed clear of bringing it up.

And so, there's that. Sweetie's just not there yet in terms of interest in the "popular" things her peers care about.

Beyond this, though, is the fact that Sweetie is just not there yet in terms of how she presents herself in front of her peers.

Sweetie, for instance. is a cryer. If she's upset, or hurt in any way or, mad, she will cry. And have an attitude. In front of us or other family. And in front of friends. At school. Wherever she is, her emotions show through. Without a care in the world about what anyone else will think about it - Sweetie will show and tell anyone exactly as she's thinking and feeling.

This, you and I can both argue, is a perfectly wonderful quality to have. She doesn't care! She's not inhibited by peer pressure! She will do and be and act exactly as she pleases no matter what. It is a great thing! Go, Sweetie!

Yes, all true.

But, it can also, I imagine, make her peers feel uncomfortable around her or plain old not like her because "she's such a baby." Not that I've ever heard another kid say this about her, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is what some of them thought.

And, quite frankly, it angers and embarrasses Hubby and I when she acts this way in public and we have to talk to her - in front of friends/family/her peers/whoever about her poor attitude and behavior. It's just not fun for anyone.

We've been picking Sweetie and her friend/classmate/cast mate up from late tech week rehearsals for the show they're both in starting this weekend. A couple of nights ago, it was raining at pick up time. Sweetie didn't have an umbrella or raincoat, so she - like all the other kids - got a little wet as they ran to their parents' cars to go home. While Sweetie's friend quickly got in the car and out of the rain as fast as she could, Sweetie - who "hates getting wet when I don't want to!" stood out in the rain, at the car door, and refused to touch the door handle to let herself in because the handle was wet!! So, instead of getting out of the rain that she hated, she stayed in the rain until she finally bucked up enough courage - or anger or whatever - to touch the handle to help herself get in!


And then, of course, she was verbally upset and, if not truly bawling, then at least quite teary, as the car ride finally got underway to bring her friend and her home.

All the while, her friend sitting silently, most likely not knowing what in the world to do while Sweetie had her mini breakdown.

Then last night at pick up time, Sweetie and friend got in the car - this time with Sweetie teary and upset about a bad headache that she had. And so, another uncomfortably silent (except for Sweetie's aggrieved declarations every once in awhile) ride got underway.

Unfortunately, I think this month of everyday practices and several shared rides has done nothing to foster a better friendship between these two girls who used to (years ago) call themselves "best friends." Now, I think they are merely pleasant with each other. Friendly, perhaps, but not friends. Mostly because of the different stages of emotional development that they are in. (Beyond what we've experienced with the car ride behavior, Sweetie has told us that the two of them hang out with different groups of people during rehearsal breaks and generally aren't interested in the same types of things anymore.)

All this to say - yeah, Sweetie's just not there yet in terms of caring what others think or taking any interest in "popular" peer activities or subject matter. But, you know? I'm not sure I ever really see Sweetie caring what other's think about her (too much, anyway) or the popular activities of the time. Sweetie is just Sweetie. She likes what she likes and does what she does.

Yes, she can be bored. Lonely. She can even feel like no one likes her or cares about what she's feeling. I've seen all of that. But that's still all about her. What she's feeling, not others. Sweetie will not compromise either. She will not bend or adjust her interests just so she fits in better with a particular person or crowd. And she will not hold in her thoughts if she feels she's being treated unfairly or not getting the attention she wants. To the surprise of those around her, Sweetie will stand up for herself at all costs to let you know what's what. And if you don't like it - well, Sweetie's not even thinking about that. Sorry. She just wants what she wants, end of story.*

I know that's part of growing up. Realizing that other's opinions and feelings matter. Caring what others think and not wanting to make yourself stand out so much, not wanting to be so different from your peers. Doing what you can to make others feel comfortable and happy, and having it be less about what you as an individual want. And, some days, I guess I do see this in Sweetie. It's coming, a little bit. But not quite. For the most part, no, not yet.

She's just not there yet. And that's totally fine.

My - our - work here continues on...


* Back for a little bit of clean up.

I feel bad. It's wrong of me to say that Sweetie is all about herself with no care for others. This is not true even most of the time, let alone the "all of the time" I think this post seems to indicate. I have more than certainly seen Sweetie be caring and very, very thoughtful of others. In fact, in terms of these rides home from theater rehearsal I've talked about here, it impresses me beyond measure that, every night (alas, except for the one night it was raining), Sweetie gets out of the car at her friend's house and walks her to the door. Whether her friend really wants that or not, and even though their true friendship seems to be waning, Sweetie knows it's the nice and right thing to do. Very sweet and caring, indeed.

Many, many posts I write here illustrate the caring, sweet girl that Sweetie can be. Most of the time, yes, she can be and truly is someone who thinks beyond herself for the benefit of others. I especially remembering one post where I noted how Sweetie wanted to help - of all people - the one girl in her class who obviously did not like her. Wow! Now that's something! But to Sweetie? It was just the right thing to do.

That said, it's those times when Sweetie is upset in some way or another that everything goes wonky. When she's upset, it's all about her and she doesn't care who knows it. Yes, this can be true for anyone - especially kids. But I also think that kids of her age bracket are trying their hardest to hold in their intense feelings, trying to "be cool" and not show they're hurt as much as they really are. Sweetie doesn't do that. Sweetie doesn't care. When she's upset, you will know it, no matter who you are or where she is.

Sweetie - she loves bigs, and she hurts big. She tries to be as good as she can and as helpful and caring as she can, and it hurts her in a big way when others don't treat her well and act in the same.

And what's so bad about that?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Content. Happy. Great.

Hairdressers are really smart, intuitive people. Mine especially can really get me to thinking sometimes. I've know her for years - since Sweetie was small. And while I haven't usually been terribly consistent about going to her, possibly taking up to more than a year off from visits at times, whenever I do go back she's there with a big smile, always happy to see me and interested in a "life" update. And - maybe most importantly - she always remembers exactly how I like my hair done. Yay!

And, so it was when I last visited her about a month ago. At the time, I was freshly off another big drama-fest with Sweetie. My hairdresser has a 16 year old daughter, as well as a college-aged daughter, so she was right there with me, able to both commiserate and provide useful insight to help get me through.

One of the things I was mentioning to her, though, is not something that's a newfound issue I have with Sweetie. No, this particular personality trait is just an aspect of Sweetie's regular ol' ways. And you might think that I as a parent would actually be appreciative of this part of Sweetie's behavior. And I am, mostly. But somethings…

What I'm talking about is the fact that Sweetie is not an overly excitable child. You know? Like those kids who get so unbelievably jumping-and-screaming-around-the-room excited when you tell them about an upcoming surprise trip you've planned for the family, or they open up THE MOST AWESOME GIFT EVER on their birthday or Christmas? Or they get super duper can't-sleep-at-night/wake up jibber-jabbering about whatever thrilling event is ALMOST HERE!!!? Yeah. No. Not Sweetie. She is a cool cucumber in the midst of even the most awesome of awesome life events. Happy, yes! Excited, sure! But as far as what's outwardly displayed, you'll just see a smily, politely grateful girl happy to receive the news or gift you're presenting, or as she thinks about the upcoming fun event that's to happen in the near future.

So - yay! What's the problem? Well, nothing really. It's actually pretty nice that we can have calm, slow Christmas mornings - taking our time together before we all decide it's time to go downstairs for breakfast treats and a look into our stockings. And I have to say that, if I did have a crazy excitable kid bouncing off the walls of my house for every new and great thing, I would have to drink a LOT more wine than I already do. Chill out, already! Calm the heck down! No. It wouldn't suit me very well at all. And so, it really is a pretty great thing to have a politely grateful, happily calm kid.

However, there are those times when I myself get so freakin' excited about giving particular gifts, or wondering just how much Sweetie will LOVE particular life experiences and opportunities. And then… eh. Politely grateful. Happily content with life. Everything's just cool. Everything's just fine.

So many camera shots poised for that perfect pic of Sweetie opening THE BEST GIFT EVER!! Only to witness in person, and then remember forever through photos, that the actuality of her reactions are way, way more subdued than I'd ever have thought they could ever be. So many times I've wonder all day long how Sweetie is liking the field trip she's on/ the first day of camp/ the amusement park trip with friends/ etc., for me to come home and excitedly bombard her with questions… only to be answered with quiet, albeit smily, affirmations of fun had. No stories about the best part of the day. No blow-by-blow reviews of every little detail. Just a happy smile that she did indeed have fun on whatever big outing she'd just returned from.

Bah. Fine. Be that way. Ya fun-crasher.

Case in point, that I happened to be detailing for my hairdresser that day about a month ago, was this past Christmas morning when Sweetie opened up her last gift - a gift from us that all her other gifts (which were from Santa) were leading up to through clues. The best gift ever!!!! She was going to be so shocked and surprised and crazy excited like you couldn't even imagine!!! My heart was beating in excitement and my camera was ready to capture it all.

But then she opened it - Tickets to see Matilda: The Musical on Broadway! - and she… was politely, happily thankful. For something I KNEW she really wished she could go see. For something I KNEW she'd absolutely love! For a trip experience I was 1000% positive was so completely her. And, yes, all of that is and was so true. She really was very happy and excited to receive this gift! But just in her own quiet, calm way. It's just her way.

I should have learned by now. Like I said, years of Christmas gifts I knew she'd be so completely stoked about! All met with the same quiet, polite happiness and gratitude.

What a let down, though, when I keep building my expectations of her reactions so high. I must stop it!

BUT… swing things the other way, when things go terribly wrong in her world… then you will get your reaction! Hoo boy, will you get a reaction! (No need for me to demonstrate "cases in point" here, as the last several posts, I think, can showcase and explain this all very nicely.)

And so… getting back to the greatness and intuitiveness that is my hairdresser… after hearing this Christmas story, and about how Sweetie is this not-crazily-excitable kid in general, she suggested, "Well, to me that just says that she's always happy. Always content. Life, to her, is just one big great thing after another, so no extraordinary expressions of being really great are warranted. But, when things slip below her typical ballpark "great" range, then you hear about it. Everything's great for her… until it's not."

Well, now. Duh.

What, after all, is Sweetie's typical answer when asked how she is? "Great!" Always has been, always will be. We've never taught her that she should answer with "great." She just started, ever since she could answer that question, and that has remained her baseline. Sweetie. She is great.

Of course, now with preteen issues, emotions and craziness tossed in the mix, her baseline has been thrown for a loop. Maybe even, perhaps, making Sweetie's preteen dramas even that much more traumatizing for her because she's so used to being nothing but great all the time. If she were always "fine" and now, with hormones raging, she found that life was a little less fine - well now, at least that's not as big a fall as it is from "great" to "less fine." She's falling bigger, maybe. By her own standards and, therefore, by ours when we witness her huge meltdowns to typically small-potatoes happenings.

There you have it, folks. Sweetie is and always has been "great." She's not just saying it - she's living it! Always content. Always happy. Always great.

Until she's not.

We're just here to help soften the landing when she falls from such great heights.

I think we can do that. I know we'll do our best.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Calm before the Storm

I've come here to write. But before, I look. I haven't written much this school year, I see. And that which I have written has either been fraught with - or at least sprinkled with - the ups and, primarily downs, of tweenaged storminess. And yet why am I called to write again today? You got it. The weather around here.. oh man. Frightful.

But, seeing as it's all I've talked about this year, I just… don't. Can't even. Sweetie is a drama queen and I, in my writings about it, can certainly come off with a tad more drama than any given situation truly warrants. Gee, where does she get it from? I wonder.

But really. Tweenaged girls are rough. They have the capacity to make parents who think they are absolutely crushing it feel absolutely crushed. "Don't tell me what to do!" "Why didn't you remind me what to do?!" "I don't care what people think!" "I care what people think!" "Let me do it myself!" "I can't do it - you always do it for me - do it for me!" And on. And on.

In the middle of it all, I am trying - really trying - to remain her calm in the middle of her storms. Do I like her over-the-top outbursts about nothing at all? Do I condone her attitude towards us and others? Heck, no! But I also "get it." I was a tween once upon a time as well. I know she doesn't know why she's feeling and acting out in these ways. I know that her reactions are way, way out of proportion to whatever the situations at hand are all about. And so I try to breathe. And answer her as calmly, yet firmly, as I can. I try to stand up for her when I see she needs - but doesn't necessarily recognize that she needs - some support. I try not to punish her for her outbursts and behaviors - unless it's truly called for, which I find it rarely is. She's just having a "moment" and I try to acknowledge that and let her deal as she needs. But I do, along with Hubby, demand respect. And I do try to stand firm by my decisions. This, I find, can be the hardest part.

Knowing, once I've made up my mind about something, that I need to hold on to that decision no matter what "but, Mom!" she throws at me - it's hard. Knowing which battles to fight and which to let slide. Knowing how stubborn and adamant she can be and, so, not backing down just so that Sweetie will stop arguing and providing reason after reason why what she wants is no big deal. Trying so hard to end as few arguments on my end as possible with, "Fine! Do what you want! You're just going to do it anyway." Trying not to feel defeated and "crushed." Flattened by the storm. It's hard.

I found this article on staying close with your tween daughter. I think it's fantastic. And I'm trying. I know Hubby is trying. And I even believe that Sweetie, in her own way, understands that we're trying to do our best as we all struggle through these years with her. Sweetie, at her core, remains as her nickname states - a sweetie. She is a caring, smart, creative, sweet girl who still loves hanging out with her parents, for the most part, playing games, watching movies, learning and adventuring. She can be and usually is her usual "great" self. She absolutely is.

But then… oh man...

You know, I feel like a softie. Or something. I mean, we are only just at the very beginnings of pre-adolesence with her. All you other parents of older kids, I'm sure, are just laughing your way through as you read this. "You just wait," you're thinking. "This is nothing," you're trying to tell me through the blogwaves. "If you can't handle this, I feel badly for what lies ahead for Sweetie and you," you think as you shake your head in disbelief, wondering just how we'll make our way to the other side with only a few scrapes and cuts. I know. Believe me, I know. But I'm also viewing this time as a foundation-laying exercise. If we can get through this and make Sweetie believe, even just a little bit, that we are on her side and do understand what she's going through… if she can view us as her parents that, yes, demand respect but are always here with listening ears and open arms… I think our relationship together through her teen years will be that much more successful because of it.

I'm hoping, anyway. And keeping calm through the storms.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Sweetie...

I love you. First and foremost and above all else, I want you to know and understand this. I love you. Daddy loves you. No matter what, every day in every way. We can't NOT love you. It's just the way it is and will be forever more.

Secondly, I want you to know and understand that I understand. Growing up sucks. Really and truly, it can be just plain awful. And confusing. You are feeling so many different feelings, wanting to make sure that we know you are an individual and capable of making decisions and doing as you want. And here we are, telling you to do and be and even feel certain ways.

We pride you on your individuality, on your comfort with being "you." For not caring what others think and finding enjoyment in time spent in your own company - you are who you are and that is great! But, on the other hand, we're encouraging you on practically a daily basis to think outside yourself and seek out friends who may not only want to play and hang out with you, but may also need you to be a better friend to them (as opposed to playing on your own, or with the typical younger crowd you're used to messing around with. Not that you think the other friends aren't fun...)

We're proud of you for being such a typically good student who does such creative and careful work… but we and your teachers tell you that you need to work faster (but still carefully!) in order to get work done on time and, thus, maintain your excellent grades. Furthermore, don't just stop at "good enough." Strive for being as creative and excellent as you possibly can… all within the pre-determined time frame set before you.

We encourage your determination and love your spunk, but are constantly speaking to you about your "tone" and disapprove of what we hear as back-talk. We want to hear your voice and know your opinions and understand your side of the story whenever possible, but too often end up disciplining you when you speak up at inappropriate times to inappropriate people in inappropriate ways.

And, in terms of what you want to tell us, I'll tell you a secret. We already know. Either because you've already told us 5 times and are still trying to tell us again for a 6th time in a slightly different way, or because we've been there/done that. And we know you. You don't have to so adamantly tell us again and again what happened or why you think the way you think in any given situation. Because we are your parents and we hear you and we already know.

All of this can be a real frustration for us. And I know it certainly must be a frustration to you.

As I angrily explained to you this morning when you were fighting with me over keeping your incredibly ratty and tattered folder (as opposed to accepting the fact that I put your school papers in a brand new folder) - I keep saying, "Fine - just do what you want!" to you in order to stop us from having an even bigger fight. But I'm tired of saying that. I can't keep saying that! And I know that I have to pick my battles with you and that things like tattered vs. new folders is, ultimately, not something for either of us to get that worked up about. So, fine, do whatever you want. But - I CANNOT and WILL NOT keep saying "just do what you want." I am your parent. Daddy is your parent. As your parents you must listen to us and do as we ask. We don't want to demand, but if that's what has to be - so be it.

And Lord knows I do not want today's tattered folder to become tomorrow's tattoo. Or whatever. The issues will get bigger. You will get bigger. But we are always your parents. As long as you live under our roof you must respect us and do as we say. Sometimes - hopefully most of the time - we will give you your space to give us your reasons and opinions on various situations that come up for you. We will listen to you and, when appropriate and reasonable, take your feelings and given facts into consideration when we make the decisions. But we will make the decisions. And what we say goes. As your parents, that is just the way it is.

One more thing. You are one very lucky girl. So am I. Because we have a truly amazing man in our life - your Daddy - who only wants what's best for us and to keep us safe and happy. Not just content, but really happy. And he wants to be involved in your life. He wants to work alongside me in the raising of you. That's awesome! But as you approach and go through your teenaged years, your relationship with your Daddy is going to struggle. I'm sorry, but it's just the way it is between daughters and dads. But Daddy won't ever give up. He always wants to be involved and help you as much as he can as you make it through. He wants to do everything he can to make your life easier and better, even when you're 110% sure there's nothing anyone can do. Even when you are confused and moody for no reason and, well, struggling with this thing called growing up. He will be there trying to help you up again. As will I. Please let us help you. Or, at the very least, know that when you're done running off in a huff, or slamming your door, or sobbing out of the blue,  or certain that "no one understands!" - we are here.

Our arms are always wide to give you that comforting hug - when you're ready. Our too-little sofa is always available to be cuddled upon with a parent or two - when you're ready. Our ears are always perked to hear what you have to say about anything, big or small - when you're ready. Our minds are always open to your plans, ideas, questions and dreams you'll share - when you're ready.

We are here for you, always. Maybe too ready too soon, in fact. Too eager to make things alright again before you're ready! But that's just the way it is between parents and their kids. We want too much to make it all "right" again. We want too much to make sure you learn the lessons early so you don't repeat mistakes (and that's where some big fights can come from, when we see you as not learning the lessons we've been trying so hard to make you understand.)

I'm sorry to say - for you and us both! - that this is only going to get worse. This struggle we so often find ourselves in. You against me. You against Daddy. Daddy and I struggling against each other as we try to co-manage the path that is raising a teenaged girl. I come from a standpoint of having once been a teenaged girl myself, when I struggled with my mom as my dad stayed off to the side. And Daddy comes at this as having grown up with a little sister who struggled during her teens with their mom. But here we are, we 3, together, trying to manage it as a team. There will be more fights. There will be more tears. There will be times when each of us feels like "no one understands!" When each of us thinks that one of the other people in the house is against them while the other is on their side. Or that no one's on their side! It will feel terrible. It will feel lonely. But we all must remember…

We are all on each other's side. Everyday. Always. We all only want what's best for each other. Always. And we all love each other so very, very much. Always.

Please keep this letter with you and read it as needed. Now and moving forward… when you're ready. I know I will. But right now? In terms of you growing up just yet? You know what?

I'm not ready. But I promise I'll do my very best. Always.

Love you to pieces,


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Looking at the Periphery - Right Where You Stand

At last Sunday's "Story for All Ages" portion of our church service, the speaking minister began by asking our congregation's youth if there were kids at school that most would consider "cool." Beyond that, were there kids that were mean? How about uncool? Shy? Then she asked the kids what characteristics the typical "cool kids" had in common. In the end, it all boiled down to the fact that some kids are seen as attractive and cool and "worth knowing" and others were not.

Then she proceeded to tell a story that would prove a point - beauty, indeed, comes from within. Even those around us without the ability to see with their eyes can recognize the most beautiful around us by their generous spirits and their depth of character.

After the story, the minister presented the children in our congregation with a challenge. She would be back, preaching with us again in a couple weeks, and when she returned she wanted to hear what happened when our kids looked around them at school - looked at those on the periphery - and made an effort to get to know someone new. Someone who was not necessarily considered to be in the "cool" spotlight, but someone who deserved and desired a friend nonetheless. Find the beauty and what's "worth knowing" in someone who's normally hiding, or just plain not usually noticed.

Of course, it was my kid who shot her hand up, asking for a clarification on what "periphery" meant. So glad she was not only paying attention, but both interested and brave enough to ask what surely others among her may have needed to understand better themselves.

As for Hubby and I, we were chuckling to ourselves. Seeing that, in her own little way, Sweetie herself is one of the ones on the periphery. Always most content to play on her own (or at least with the younger kids - and probably the boys - who are as deeply submerged in imaginary story-telling play as Sweetie likes to be). Sure, whereas on the one hand it seems to us that nearly everyone knows and is friendly with Sweetie, on the other hand she doesn't really have - has never really had - any true friends. And the one who has perhaps come the closest is, himself, a "periphery" kid, in my estimation. Another who likes what he likes and sees no interest in doing other than what he enjoys. Luckily for him and Sweetie, their interests are very similar and they enjoy spending the time they have together - together. But still - do they seek each other out when being together isn't a "given" during after school care or whatnot? No. They each like their separateness just as much.

But back to Sweetie. She is self-confident, yes. Popular, sure. But let's just call her - as far as we can tell and from what we've heard from teachers - a "respected loner."

A kid on the periphery.

You'd think, therefore, that it wouldn't take her all that much effort to find another like herself and, as our minister challenged, seek out in them what is beautiful and worth knowing.

Well, here's the thing. At least for our "periphery kid," looking up from herself and out into the social world around her can be a challenge in and of itself. Even when she's starting with someone she already calls "friend."

You see, last Fall Sweetie's teacher divided her class into groups of 3 or 4 in order to work on a project. Sweet was put together with two other girls she knew. One of them she'd known since kindergarten and the other was a new girl as of 4th grade. She didn't know this one quite as well as the other, but they all really enjoyed being together on this project and the 3 of them became friends.

This was great because, as far as I could make of these girls (I helped out on a couple occasions with their project, so had the pleasure of getting to know them a bit more) they were great, fun, good kids and really great friend material for Sweetie. Furthermore, after speaking to the mom of one of these girl's a little bit (the girl Sweetie has known since kindergarten), she and I discovered that both our daughters have had recent challenging times with others in the class. Also, that both our girls tend to play on their own, perhaps trying to avoid the drama going on around them. How great it was, then, for the two of them to have found each other! Two good kids who just want to have fun without all the other girl-drama that's so apparently running rampant in small-town 5th grade.

And yet, as the days and weeks passed since the project was turned in, I could only see that Sweetie was back to her old ways of playing on her own - or with younger kids - during recess. "What about your new friends? What are they doing at recess?" And Sweetie wouldn't know. Sometimes, she'd say, they and a fourth girl would all hang out. But mostly, no. Sweetie plays what she wants on her own. "Are you still friends?" - Yeah! - "Then why don't you play together? Hang out?" - I don't know. We just don't. I like doing my own thing.


Whatever. Sweetie is who she is. She's always cared more about playing what she wants rather than who she's playing with. She's not a follower! She isn't "cliquey"! This is great! But now... despite our best efforts to encourage her, more recently, to seek out and bond more with some good girl friends, she's just… doing as she has always preferred to do.

But now, here's the thing...

Just this week I spoke again to this one girl's mom. She called me, upset with some girl-drama that had really come to a head for her daughter just the day before. This mom had remembered how she and I discussed our girls' peer-challenges before, and the fact that both of them were the victims of at least passive-aggressive bullying, if not full-out nastiness. Apparently, her daughter's tormentor - who has been bothering her daughter for about a year now - was only getting worse. She wanted to know if Sweetie was either bothered by the same girl or, at the very least, witnessed some bullying action towards her daughter or anyone else.

I didn't know, but I could tell this mom that Sweetie's bully was yet another girl in their class. I didn't know much about the bullying girl she was mentioning, but I assured her I'd ask Sweetie and find out what she'd noticed, if anything. Also, I let her know that I'd talk to Sweetie about stepping up and looking out for her daughter. She and I both expressed how much our girls told us they liked each other and called each other friend. We would be better, ourselves, about encouraging their spending time together and arranging for them to see each other on weekends whenever possible.

After school that day, and with the other mom's permission, I spoke to Sweetie about what was going on with her friend and the "mean girl." Sweetie said she herself has never had any problems with that particular mean-girl - she neither was friends with nor disliked her.  Nor had Sweetie noticed this girl acting in a bullying way towards anyone, let alone her friend.

Hmph. What did I say earlier? That it's difficult for Sweetie to look up from herself and see what else is going on around her? Especially when it comes to human interaction - good or bad? Yes, difficult indeed.

"Well, you know how Rev. Shayna challenged you kids to look for someone on the periphery to get to know better? I think I know just the kid who needs you to be a better friend to her."

So Sweetie and I - and then Sweetie and I and Hubby later that night - had a good long talk about the difference between "being friendly with" and "being a friend to" someone. There is a difference, and it's profound. To make an actual friend will benefit each of them so much - especially as they get older and closer to the middle school years (next year!)

At 11 years old, you wouldn't think Sweetie'd need us to give examples of acts of friendship. But there we were, and Sweetie seemed happy to be and interested in being advised. Walk with her to chorus. Watch when the teacher turns his back to see that no one's making faces at her. Spend snack and lunch time together when possible. Seek her out on the playground and hang out with her. You don't have to play the on-going-every-day-never-ending running around game with the 3rd graders, even if they told you they "need" you. They don't - they'll be fine. She does need you. Be a friend.

We also discussed our church's theme of "Courage" this month and how the J. K. Rowling quote Sweetie heard in one of her recent church "Circles" was very fitting - with a twist - in light of what her friend has been dealing with and how Sweetie can help. The quote is, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." To that, I added the bravery it takes to stand up for your friends.

It may sound like we're forcing a friendship here. Honestly, we're not. These girls really do like each other a lot. And I can tell you that my girl even thinks that she already has been a friend to this girl. They like each other! Isn't that what a friend is? Someone you like?

Well, not exactly. Not entirely. A friend is so much more than someone you just like. Someone you simply get along with and think is nice. If you find someone like that, then invest in them! Spend time with them, get to know them, make an effort, watch out for each other. Form a bond. You may have some struggles along the way, but ultimately won't regret it. And you may just have a friend for life.

Luckily for Sweetie - and this other sweet girl - they've already glanced at each other as they've stood together, separately, on the periphery. I look forward to watching Sweetie stretch from her comfortable spot alone on the edge to forming a deeper connection with someone not only worth knowing, but know well.

Hold on to each other tightly, girls. The next few years are going to require every ounce of effort and determination just to not lose your footing.

(Sweetie's new friend called her today, excitedly accepting Sweetie's invite to a sleepover at our house tomorrow. Look out, world - there's a new duo in town!)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Not Dead, Just Restin'...

… from a very busy Fall.

Yes. I've been resting. Not even thinking about this little ol' blog thing here. Too, too much going on.

For one thing - the most major thing - we've moved. Again. An unplanned, unforeseen move. No one's fault at all, just a whole bunch of unfortunate events culminating into the sucky fact that the house we were renting needed to go on the market. We had about a month and a half from the time we were told until the day we moved into our new place on Dec. 1st. Was there a November this year? I have no idea. We were all too busy doing other things.

But now we are… settled. Yeah, that's a good word for it. We're in a new rental that, as Dickens may have said, is not the best of places nor the worst of places. But it was available at a good price with the required requirements needed to make us satisfactorily satisfied. And Sweetie didn't have to change school districts, which is a nice bonus for her. We are all good, and happy to be able to slow down now after the holidays (Go! Move in! Unpack! Stop unpacking and just set up for Christmas! Do the Sweetie's Birthday/Christmas/New Years thing! Rest - just a bit! - before packing up Christmas and getting back to the unpacking of the real life things!)

In the meantime, we've had a couple birthdays around here. Hubby reached a milestone birthday in November, and Sweetie followed a month plus a day later with her own birthday - her 11th. We, of course, did her usual birthday "thing" of visiting Santa at the mall. Yes, she's still a full-fledged believer, and we love it! WE'RE still believers, after all. Santa is one heck of a guy, and in our house he's one masterful puzzle-maker/scavenger hunt creator/magic-bringing elf. Still, I caught myself catching my breath this year as I contemplated how this might - just might - be the last time she'll want to visit the Big Guy on her big day. So very interested to see what amazing changes this year has in store for Sweetie, as well as what wonderful consistencies may remain.

This year Santa apparently stole (borrowed) the full length mirror that was in Sweetie's room and returned it there on Christmas morning, complete with a magical saying he'd inscribed on it, just for Sweetie. Then, he helped work with Hubby and I to deliver clues towards Sweetie's final big Christmas gift, which was from us this year and not Santa. Admittedly, the excitement of Christmas anticipation was waaaaaayyyy more intense for me than the low key reality of Sweetie opening our gift of tickets to see "Matilda" on Broadway. Whereas I've been appreciative of Sweetie's quiet, polite happiness with the unfolding of Christmas morning in years past (so nice to take things slow, with quiet family togetherness and contentment as the order of the day), this year's "less than" just left me feeling down. See, I just knew she'd be jaw-droppingly stunned with the knowledge she'd be going to this beloved show. And yet… not so much. Yes, certainly happy! It's just that Sweetie's not a crazily excitable, screaming maniac of a kid. Which, you know, I should be thankful for. And I am.

Yes, Sweetie is as awesome and great as ever and she was more than pleased with her whole birthday and Christmas experience. She was also kind to and thoughtful of those who were not as blessed with presents as she was by bringing her duplicate gifts to our local charitable organization. She didn't want exchanged "things", she just wanted to give kids who didn't get what they hoped they would a chance that now maybe they might.

Love that little girl! She really is the best.

Speaking of Sweetie, she's been busy too. She's been working hard, multiple practices a week, on rehearsals for an upcoming performance of "Alice in Wonderland." The last 2 shows she's been in with this company have been very small roles. But this time around she is a Playing Card, with lots of stage time to go with it. We are all very excited to see the show mid-January.

As for me? I can tell I'm ready to get back to writing. Back to all the random thoughts in my head popping up and announcing themselves as possible blog fodder. It's a new year and, for so many reasons, I know it's bound to be a great one. And I'll be here to write about it all.