And so it begins….

She’s nine years old. She creates stories and friendship bracelets and builds businesses in her brother’s bedroom. Recently, she and a friend made a cardboard box into a ‘bug hospital’ for mayflies, in hopes that they would live longer than one day. She is beautiful and fierce and wants to travel for a living and play every sport.

Yesterday, she spent an afternoon with a couple of older friends when her dad and I both had to work. These older friends–12 years old–are sometimes kind, sometimes condescending. This time things were good, apparently, as she came home with styled hair, ‘new’ hand-me-downs, and eyeliner I wasn’t supposed to notice. She was giddy with the power of instant messaging and absolutely insisted that I help her acquire a yahoo account. Minutes after re-entry into our home, she became weepy, and fragile, and broke down at the supper table. Her emotions tangled with those of parent caught off-guard. Verbal sparring ensued. During a lull filled with deep breaths, I suggested that maybe she could use a nice long bath. Her eyes immediately filled with tears and her face crumpled as she agreed. Were these tears of relief? a response to unexpected kindness? She couldn’t tell me. But I finally got it.

She thinks she’s not enough.

She can’t compete with the 12 year olds. And she really, really wants to. These girls have very clear opinions of what’s ‘in’ and what’s not, but she’s not immersed in the ever-changing ‘rules’ like they are. Desperate to be ‘in’, she gets snagged on her own favorite things, which probably aren’t on the ‘in’ list. Conversations float from one topic to another–like only girls’ can–and while she is calm on the outside, her head is swimming as she tries to keep up. She agrees with opinions she doesn’t understand, and has to toss aside things that are still important to her. Nothing overtly cruel or unkind transpires, but in the end, it is exhausting and more than a nine-year-old heart can hold.

And now she thinks she’s not enough.

But the long, hot bath does the trick. A happy person emerges, asking for snacks and a movie. After some random wrestling with the daddy and the brother, an actual ‘kid’ movie is selected without hesitation. And all is well.

It’s not easy to be a girl sometimes. If only I could recover from my version of these emotions as quickly.

4 thoughts on “And so it begins….

  1. I somehow am reminded of a phrase from a person wiser than myself; It goes something like, “don’t forget who you are.”

    I guess that only works if you know who you are, but somehow as much as I wanted to ignore that when I was age 9-19, it always stuck there in the back of my mind.

  2. I remember my mom leaving notes to me equivalent to “You’re right. Jodi does have _________” or “You’re right. Jodi does think _______. But YOU are ….” and then listing out the real things that made me a valuable person in my own right. I rolled my eyes and thought my mom was a complete dork; some notes I even threw away. Yet I had those thoughts in my mind and my heart the next time…and the next time…and the next time…and now.

  3. i wish there was some way to preserve her affinity for the things others (the older and wiser 12 year olds of the world) categorize as insignificant and outdated. because here’s what happens …

    she becomes a conformist like all the other high schoolers and fights the daily battle of trying to be something she’s not, even going so far as to hide anything that may reveal who she really is. and then she’ll go to college and who she was made to be will try to come to the surface again and this time she won’t try as hard to tame it. people will begin to gravitate towards her because they catch a glimpse of something real … something unique.

    she’ll initially be afraid of its power, but then she’ll begin to feel more confident in her own skin. people will take advantage of her and try to manipulate her and put her back into a box that’s most convenient for them and then one day … one day she’ll get out of the bathtub after a long night of tears from heartache and exhaustion and decide to advance into a moment where she’s fully alive. in this moment she’ll understand that who she is is exactly what the world needed.

    or, there is option B: she could take a different road than the one we took and emerge from the bathroom next time with a strength that trumps experience and age.

    i think i’ll pray for option B. i have to believe that her generation will be stronger than i was.

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