To say I had an awkward childhood is an understatement. I was klutzy and unathletic, and could possibly fill a book with stories of my embarrassing unathleticism (yes, this is totally a word). I had to wear coke-bottle glasses with tape over one eye because of my lazy-eye… my mother didn’t realize that just picking up a $5 eye patch would’ve been WAY better than scotch-taping one side of my already ugly ass glasses. Did I mention I was only 6 years old? And how my mom wore the exact same glasses? Yeah. Good times.
My oldest turns 10 next week. 10. A full flippin’ decade. 10 years ago, at this very moment, I was miserable. Hell, I should’ve been holding my baby at that point — she was definitely cooked, locked and loaded at this point. She tipped the scales at almost 10lbs! After enduring 2 and a half days of
pure hell pitocin-induced labor, culminating with 3 hours of failed pushing, I was sliced open via emergency c-section and wondered where the hell they pulled that 3 month old baby out of, because it certainly wasn’t me.
While that birth experience will be etched in my brain as if it happened last month, probably for all eternity, a full decade has whizzed past me. Yes my friends, as cliche as it sounds — childhood goes by in the blink of an eye.
My 10 year old had to start wearing glasses last year. Eyewear has dramatically improved over the last 30 years, so her glasses = adorable. But over the last few months, as she began 4th grade, tiny bits and pieces of adolescent-awkwardness have appeared.
Acne. Frenemies. Mood swings. Peer pressure…
I have been trying to talk to her about the changes, without scaring her. Because… this is only the beginning. WAAAAH!!!
I’m still dealing with moments of awkwardness.
I’m still learning.
I’m still stumbling.
Do I tell her that? Do I tell her that it doesn’t necessarily get better? That there are times where I need a beer because life can truly suck ass and there’s nothing else to do but attempt to escape the shittiness for a few hours by drinking? Probably not a lesson to teach a 10 year old, but… I digress. Right now, her means of escape = books and listening to indie and classical music in her room. So, that’s a definite win. A nerdy win, but I’ll take it. Hey, I escape in nerdy ways too (she says as she types out a blogpost) with a beer in hand, of course.
I’ve accepted the fact that we’re stumbling through adolescence together. Instead of ignoring her issues, pointing out weaknesses, or simply yelling like my mother… I am doing what I can to help her discover her best self.
I’ll say things like… Yes, acne sucks. Here is some medicated cover-up so we can fix it and forget it. No, I’m not putting makeup on my nearly 10yo… it’s a small way of helping her to be her best. To help her maintain some shred of focus and confidence. Acne sucks, but to me, helping her treat, conceal and heal it is like brushing her hair. I’m not going to send her to school with bedhead. Why would I send her to school with untreated skin issues?
If only mean-girl problems were as simple to treat as acne. Because that’s another issue entirely.
My nearly 10yo has a close-knit class of 14 kids. Most of them have gotten along with each other fantastically since preschool. Boys/girls — didn’t matter. They were friends! End of sentence. That changed this year. Some of the girls feel pressure to have a BFF — and — as you know — you can only have ONE BFF. So there’s issues of exclusion that I am VERY familiar with. FOMO is real, and fuck… it starts young. Manipulative minds develop young too, I suppose, since I know my daughter holds in her shit until she BURSTS at the least appropriate time. I don’t know anyone like that. *shutter* I believe that some of her friends have realized how to push some of her buttons and when they get the reaction they were hoping for… BOOM. They win. Not fair. But kids are kids, and these are the lessons, right?! *sigh*
Finding the age-appropriate tools to get my 10yo daughter to understand that people who treat you like shit don’t deserve your friendship is a huge challenge. That just does not make sense to an open-hearted 4th grader who just wants to be friends with everyone. I tell her to stand up for herself, because she’s awesome! If others don’t see that… too bad. Again… right over her head.
I try to point out what she kicks ass at — how creative and artistic she is, how she can sing, and read long, challenging books, how cool it is that can code on the computer (yes, really), and how she has this crazy-awesome memory when it comes to detailed facts about animals. Even though we’re balancing issues like acne and haircuts and glasses… I try to avoid focusing too much on looks or superficial things — because that shouldn’t matter… like… ever. Yes, she’s adorable and beautiful inside and out, but why is that always the first line of “defense” when it comes to talking to our young daughters? Like, that magically fixes everything? We don’t tell boys “But you’re so beautiful, inside and out! You can do anything!” when they’re stumbling through a bad day. I mean… I don’t have a son, so maybe I’m wrong… but I’ve never heard someone utter that stale line to a boy as much as we spew it out to girls like verbal diarrhea.
This Sarah Silverman quote grabbed me by balls I didn’t even know I had… but really, it makes so much sense.
I do think both of my daughters have the capability to be anything. I don’t say that out loud (shhh), but I believe it to be true… but first, they need to find a way to trudge through the bullshit adolescent years. When I think about the changes my girls will face over the next decade, oy. It makes my head spin.
I can’t fix everything. I’m trying to listen. Practice compassion, offer support, lead by example by just being a good, strong person, avoiding drama when I can, laughing at the bullshit when necessary.
I can’t protect my daughters from everything. I can’t baby-proof their life anymore.
I’m trying to patiently *bwhahaha!* guide my oldest daughter through the awkward age of adolescence while knowing full well she has to stand on her own two feet and learn lessons through the stumbles. Because that’s where the humor is. I had to discover that on my own. And I certainly didn’t learn it at age 10.
Awkwardness is easier to embrace and laugh at as you get older, but… that may be the alcohol talking. There, I said it.