Last week was March Break and let me tell you, it is one of my favourite times of the year. If you take into consideration that the school holiday happens to be one of the more expensive times to travel and add that to the fact that it’s a highly valued time to request off work due to it’s popularity, you can understand why the Cractpot family is not often able to co-ordinate organized plans.
Which is fan-fricken-tastic if you ask me.
Instead we get to enjoy a whole week of unplanned, unorganized, spontaneous fun.
If we spend an entire day in our pyjamas utilizing every single pillow to create a multi floor pillow fort, so be it. If we choose to spend hours educating ourselves on all the lessons that classic 80’s movies have to offer, I’ll pop the popcorn. If we decide to venture outside to go hiking or risk the crowds at a tourist attraction, all we have to do is program the GPS, hop in the car and go. Everything just feels effortless and fun on March Break.
Unfortunately when the first day of the much anticipated holiday finally arrived, nothing felt effortless or fun. Breathing hurt. It was like there was a 1000 pound weight sitting on my chest. Maybe in the form of an elephant. Which makes sense because that would then explain the pressure in my head. He was probably holding on for dear life by wrapping his trunk firmly around my temples.
By the 2nd day I had completely lost my voice. Parenting became a game of extreme charades. By mid week I gave up trying to fight it and retreated gracefully to bed.
While being bed ridden and mute doesn’t exactly sound like the recipe for a fun filled holiday, it did give me a chance to perfect my listening skills but what I found out made me a little sad.
It seems that despite my daughter being smarter, more mature and more confident that I ever was at her age, high school still has a way of eating you up and spitting you out into the same old gender stereotypes. I suppose part of the blame is on me.
I invested considerable time teaching all of my kids to be kind. To really listen to people when they spoke. I emphasized the importance of eye contact and the value of showing genuine interest. I encouraged empathy and explained that everyone looks at a situation from a slightly different point of view. I taught them that most people have something amazing to offer. Sometimes it’s hard to see because they are shy, or they have been hurt and sometimes they haven’t yet found it themselves, but I encouraged them to look for that amazing thing in each person they met anyway.
That was the easy part. The hard part was explaining why everyone else didn’t necessarily play by the same rules. In grade school girls are use to giving and receiving compliments. Unfortunately, their compliant nature sometimes encourages a lack of individuality and those compliments are rewarded only to those that choose to conform. The ultra critical and competitive way some girls have of dealing with each other led to a lot of self doubt and soul searching before my daughter could really appreciate her own quirky personality and unique points of view. In the face of frustrated and insecure children struggling to figure out how they fit in, I dried tears and reminded mine that any scared animal backed into a corner has the capacity to bite. Unfortunately as much as they might have wanted to befriend everybody, sometimes they needed to walk away for their own protection.
While the rest of the world seemed to be dividing up into pairs, | am proud of how my daughter chose to navigate the world; cruising between cliques, celebrating differences and socializing with everyone. She didn’t have a best friend. Her experience was that the closest connections were strengthened by not only liking the same things but by hating the same things as well and she could never quite let go of the idea that everyone had something amazing to offer, or the desire to find it. She moved into high school with an open heart and an open mind.
Now when you take a person who is kind, maintains eye contact and shows genuine interest in getting to know all the amazing things about you and you add mile long lashes, a peaches and cream complexion and curves that would make Marilyn Monroe jealous, it makes sense that all of a sudden we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Showing genuine interest in anyone if you are single girl trying to handle the halls of high school is a slippery slope. The teenage years appear to be a sort of free for all propelled by super charged hormones. A fevered race for the finish line to realize they might have chosen the wrong lane only to start the whole process over again. This changed the landscape a little. Now she was expected to put labels on her relationships and a pretty girl who is nice to too many members of the opposite sex starts to get labelled something all on her own. She tried removing herself from the line of fire by making it clear that she wasn’t a threat. She began to start all of her conversations with a disclaimer explaining she wasn’t looking for any sort of exclusive relationship. Unfortunately boys are optimists and assume when a girl says that, she means with anyone else. She struggled with the idea that she was hurting people that had unwittingly gotten the wrong idea but she didn’t know how to disentangle herself from the situation without hurt feelings. She would down play all of her wonderful attributes to stop people from looking for more than she was willing to give. Eventually she introduced a new narrative that painted herself as the problem. She became the villain who was just bad in relationships. “It’s not you, it’s me“.
She started believing her own rhetoric. She’s decided, at the age of 16, that she has commitment issues she needs to protect the world from. She is afraid to show anyone the amazing things about herself because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone before she can figure out how to fix what is wrong with her.
Somehow during all my lessons of kindness I forgot to remind my generous, passionate and gorgeous daughter to be kind to herself first.
How incredibly frustrating, and how wearily familiar. How often do women see a problem and assume responsibility and take on blame. We sacrifice for others never really expecting anyone to sacrifice for us. We turn ourselves inside out trying to be everything for everybody until we don’t know who we are anymore.
Luckily I still have time. Time to take care of her when she won’t take care of herself. Time to remind her of how amazing is, and to encourage her to trust herself. She has so much to offer but until the right person comes along, a person who is kind, and makes eye contact and shows a genuine interest in what she has to say, I am more than happy to have her all to myself. Until then we’ll be in our pillow fort, watching 80’s movies and reminding ourselves that we are worth it. And so are you my fellow Cractpots. Each and everyone of you has something amazing to offer. So be kind to yourself. I hope you know that I am genuinely interested in what you have to say…just don’t expect me to be exclusive…there are just too many blogs in the sea.
Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind –Dr. Seuss