My little one is a quiet soul. She has always had a need for solitude and loves to be at home in her safe zone. Even as a 2 year old she would walk around asking her older siblings, in her adorable baby talk, if they would be home to babysit her while I went out to do errands. She prefers one or two friends, to loud crowds. Even as a little girl and we would plan her birthday...I would be formulating a list a mile long of girls to invite and things we could do and she in her 8 year old wisdom, would put the brakes on it all. "Mom, I don't want all of that. I just want 3 friends here. 12 girls is way too much for me." Oh to be so self aware!
For a long time this deeply concerned me. "She's not comfortable in her own skin," I would wail. Everything with her is just slower, quieter, more orderly, more thought out, than how I personally operate. I was so afraid. The truth was that her solitary enjoyment, her quiet, her slow methodical actions, scared me.
What an odd response! Unless you have lived the life I have. "My girl" was a very similar little girl. Quiet, self possessed, gentle, not comfortable in her own skin.... and right around 12, 13 years old, all hell broke loose for her. I didn't know any better and I blasted my way through it all, demanding, grabbing, squeezing, at the illusion of control. I would fix this, just give me a minute! I cringe when I look back to that time. I have made amends many times for being insensitive, not knowing better what to do, for being so so very afraid and bulldozing around trying to control what was scaring me.
This quiet girl didn't fit into my box, my idea of how it all "should" be. A successful mother raised secure children who were able to handle big groups, lots of friends, speak up for herself.....but "my girl" quietly stood by. She tried to say what worked for her, but I don't think I heard her. I think I was so stuck in my ideas that I often "encouraged" her to be different than what she was saying felt right for herself.
Little one is 13 now. 13 is a horrible age and I think if there was any way to skip it we would, we should, all take advantage of it. Its been a rough year for my little one. But she is finding her way. She is going to a "girl's group" and seeing a counselor and she takes it all very seriously and does what she is told. Its very sweet and endearing. She is taking the steps and doing the work to feel better. And I am able to honor *her* journey. I quietly walk beside her. I embrace the things about her that are so unique and make her so interesting. Like the fact that she is reading The Merk Medical Manual and taking notes and underlining and highlighting words and finding out what they mean, because "this is really interesting to me." Or reading the original Grimm's Fairy Tales and comparing them to Disney's versions and discussing them with me. That one of her favorite possessions is a set of multi-colored highlighters that the dad bought for her to use for her reading. That she doesn't like to wear make-up and won't pierce her ears because its "putting a hole in your body that wasn't meant to be there," but is planning her first tattoo.
And I regret so deeply that I wasn't able to give this quiet acceptance to "my girl." When I know better I do better....but that doesn't feel like enough to me and I have to be able to get past this, because I did do the best I knew how to do. The truth is though, that it wasn't good enough, it wasn't very good at all. It was fear driven panic. Of course, I do have to give myself this bit of room, that "my girl" had added some things to our equation that haven't occurred to little one. But if I had known earlier how to embrace her introversion instead of try to pull her out of it...would things be different? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it all wouldn't have started as early, I don't know. But still..... I wish it WAS different.
I am reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. What a gift.
"At school you might have been prodded to come "out of your shell" - that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same."
I am always learning.
Hopefully my little one can make her grand appearance into adulthood relatively unscathed and feeling strong and sure in her quiet ways. And it will be such a beautiful thing.
Hopefully "my girl" will find her way eventually and that too, will be such a beautiful thing.
And hopefully, I will find my way to more and more peace in my old age, accepting responsibility for what is mine to carry and letting the rest go, forgiving myself for my many well intentioned mistakes.