New Year Vow

A new year. A new blog. A new vow. A full-hearted attempt to put into practice what I’ve been believing for several years.

It feels easier with the toddlers. They’re still young enough that their world revolves around me. They don’t often sass back and when they do its kind of cute. Its easy to say, “Those girls are strong willed and they know what they like!” When they inconvenience me its acceptable because they can’t do much for themselves. When they are in need of comfort they let me comfort them with cuddles or breast. When they fight with each other I can calmly intervene with a peaceful solution like playing  with them separately. We still have some issues to work through which I’ll save for another time because this post is about my oldest and my promise to her.

She’s only a twelve year old girl. She’s a child still. But she’s also becoming a young lady. She’s had a few years experience of a variety of things, yet she’s still innocent. She’s figured a lot of stuff out but she still has many many things to learn about herself and the world around her. She’s opinionated. She’s helpful when I ask her to be but she’s not a people pleaser. She’s compassionate toward animals but can sometimes barely tolerate her siblings. She doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up but she’s willing to try her hand at a lot of things. She can follow her friends’ lead in the games they want to play but has a hard time coming up with ideas to entertain her friends who need to be entertained. She can entertain herself though. In many ways she’s so very much herself. In many ways she’s like me.

She is self-conscious about her body, her face, her hair, and her mannerisms. She’s even self-conscious about how she sounds, what she thinks, and what she feels. I recognize her defensive posturing and her veiled demeanor.  I know what’s behind her blunt tone of voice, her choice of words, and her stance because I was a twelve year old girl. Sometimes I still feel like I am.

Not only do I often fear that the things I say sound stupid to the others but I feel like I look stupid saying them. I learned early to not smile, to keep my head lowered. and avoid eye contact so I couldn’t see the look of disgust when people would notice my crowded teeth. I decided at a pretty young age that what I said went against what the majority of the people in my world believed so I kept quiet. I knew I wasn’t cool enough for the popular kids, smart enough for the nerds, eccentric enough for the drama geeks, sporty enough for the athletes, talented enough for the choir kids, or bad enough for the outcasts. I thought more forearms were too manly and my boobs too big. Attention in any form embarrassed me. As an adult I have, for the most part, overcome a concern about what others think. I can like myself and look beyond myself. One of the things I can see is my daughter dealing with some of the same issues that probably every kid has to encounter at some time (schooled or not). I see her hiding from whatever shame she feels is screaming from her body.

And she does feel shame. Part of it is my fault. I didn’t start out being entirely a peaceful parent. There were aspects about me that were considered more attachment then most but I still had a lot to learn about being peaceful. As soon as she was born I began a slow shift toward the me I am today but not until a few years ago was the change drastic. Bad habits were already inscribed into the way we communicated. Over the past couple years I’ve slowly worked to polish those out and even more so in the past few months. I’m ready to quit polishing and just forge a whole new relationship.

Even after discovering a more peaceful way to parent, her step-dad and I have struggled to translate those beliefs into real practice. Part of it is the aforementioned bad habits mixed in with laziness. Its also a bit of misunderstanding and unreasonable expectations. I haven’t always stood up for her and I haven’t been so good at boosting her confidence. What I see as gentle teasing has probably built up to a layer of self-hatred. We may think we’re imparting our great wisdoms onto her when we tell her to think positive or point out the silver linings. But really we’re just blasting her to pieces and enforcing her doubt in her self . We’re shaming. Harping on her for harping on the babies is no better than spanking a crying a child so it’ll be quiet. I know it the minute it falls out of my face. I know too, how I sound. When I’m tired or irritated or needing my space and I take it out on others-I know she’s just reflecting me. I need to change my behavior not hers. Instead of guiding her to a path of a peaceful inner self we’re breaking down the trust she needs to have in us. We don’t need to steer her perspectives-at least not in the moment when she just needs to share. She is silent so often because she’s afraid of being defeated. But we shouldn’t be putting her in a win or lose situation when it comes to expressing herself.  We’ve had years to better ourselves and change our perspective. She can learn to live peacefully from our example We can TALK to her about those things and share our joyousness of life once the vibration of the moment is itself joyous.

I’ve always had a problem expecting what I have no right to expect. She is a wonderful person with thoughts and feelings of her own. She deserves to be heard, to be listened to, and to be treated with respect. And she needs to be given a little lee-way  because we are the adults. We’ve had the experiences that have shaped us and made us better people. She’s just starting out and deserves the opportunity to learn the lessons on her own while witnessing the people she is supposed to trust living the joyful life she wants to have.

So I for one vow to be better for her and to her. I know trust won’t be built overnight.She can be confident, she can be curious, she can be silly, she can be sad and mad and ungrateful at times. She can be a delight to converse with. Hopefully once again she can still be comfortable enough to be comforted with cuddles if she needs it. She can be all she wants to be and I can allow her the freedom to be.

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2 Comments »

  1. mary Said:

    Amy,
    this is such a powerful, amazing piece. I’m glad you shared, these are some of the things I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. Really great article!
    I do see all these things, and your are both, (all of you) amazing, beautiful, sacred, talented, beautiful people.

  2. Kelly Said:

    Hi Amy!
    I remember not feeling respected as a young teenage girl. I’m not sure if my parents could have done anything more to change that or not. I say that because I feel like I’ve done a lot to build up my daughter to be proud and confident in who she is (since she was little), but I now see her going through some of these same challeges that you mentioned and that I went through as well. I can’t say I really felt all that respected by adults, teachers or classmates (boys especially). There were a few here and there that let me know I was heard and they “saw me”. I didn’t really feel respected by my parents a lot of times. I’m not sure if this is my own self-conscious perspective that I made up in my head. I do think we do that a lot to ourselves.

    Maybe self-confidence comes from learning it on our own. I think it’s hard for us to believe the words of others unless we’ve felt we’ve proven it to ourselves. Even if my daughter asks for a critique or critisism on something I find that no matter which way I go with it, it’s not what she wants to hear. Either she says I’m not telling her the “real truth and just being nice” or I hurt her feelings because she says she wants the “critique” but she really didn’t. So, I’ve learned I have to tread very carefully with what I say.

    I was very self-conscious as well as a young girl (seemed to start about 4th grade) and I don’t think I’ve really matured out of it till my mid 30’s. I also remember my mom telling me that I just shouldn’t ask her for her opinion on anything because no matter what she said it wasn’t right. I’ve said that a time or two to my daughter as well.

    I knew an elderly man who at about 85 years old told me that after his whole long life, he believed life was really just about people learning to get a long. I often thought he oversimplified it. I do think this is true but most of all I think life is about discovering who “we are” and those realizations are what help us in the world with other people.

    I also believe that as parents we do have to give ourselves a little slack as well. I think it’s okay to let our kids know that they’ve pushed the limits too far. When my daughter was about 3 and 4, I remember feeling guilty sometimes that I got angry at her. I’ve come to learn it’s okay to let our kids know that we’re angry. Kids do push our buttons and the limits.

    In real life, we get angry, stressed out, sad, and sometimes just fed up. In my real life, I’ve hollered, threw a fit and even had a few adult tantrums. My daughter has learned to deal with me at these stressful times and be there for me just as I have for her. I’ve had to apologize to her and listen to her tell me how I didn’t do the appropriate thing in her eyes. The great thing is we’ve worked through these things together. She’s not just learning from me, but I’m learning from her as well, AND we’re learning together.

    Even though we are parents as soon as our children are born to us, it’s just the beginning of the learning journey, because we still keep learning how to be better parents and become better people throughout our whole lives. It’s true our children are our best mirrors giving us reflections of ourselves. However, I often need to remind myself that my daughter is her own person and she has her own way of viewing the world that may not have anything to do with me or her dad.

    I don’t know if there’s anything that’s taught me more about myself than being a parent. Nothing like wanting to be a better person for your children. It’s a powerful motivator.

    My aunt told me once, the best thing you can do for your child is to give them a solid foundation on which to grow, stand and believe. That piece of advice has served me well. Obviously I don’t know all the answers to life’s BIG questions, but I’ve tried to give my daughter a belief that there is a divine power bigger than us. I believe it’s important for her to believe that there’s more to “life” than this physical world and human frailty. When the world around her lets her down or someone around her dies or leaves her life, I want her to feel she has a strength in a divine source that is never waivering. I’m a human being. I’ve let her down, and I’m sure I will many times to come, so it gives me comfort knowing she has a divine source to fall back on. She might stray from it at some point, but I trust she’ll remember it, come back to it and find her way from that foundational truth. ;0)


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