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.