interview with a 6th grade girl

Thought I’d get some insight on life straight from the source…

Q: Do you think it’s better to get the latest video game console/computer/phone or to have an honest relationship with your parents? (BTW, I’ve seen people have great relationships with their parents without the honesty.) Why?

A: Personally, I’d rather have the honest relationship, because it makes me feel better and less anxious. That way I can ask for help with something without having to share a bunch of things that have already happened and risk getting in trouble. Also, that feels kind of like lying.

Q: How would you create your perfect day?

A: Um, well, huh…That’s hard!

Q: Why?

A: Because it’s not really what you do in a day that makes it perfect. It’s who you do it with and why you’re doing it. It could be going to that cool hot springs place in Idaho City, or it could be picking up trash in the side of the highway. It just depends on the people you’re spending it with.

Q: Dogs or cats?

A: Cats! Definitely.

Q: Why?

A: Well, there are a lot of cats that play fetch! (Laughs) And cats are softer. Also, dogs I don’t know make me nervous.

Q: New or thrift store?

A: Mom!! What is it? Clothes…makeup…

Q: (Laughing)

A: Because if it’s makeup, I definitely want it new!

Q: I agree! Gross! What about clothes?

A: Thrift store, except underwear. (Giggles.)

Q: What’s cooler? Doctor Who or comic book superheroes?

A: Doctor Who! Definitely!

Q: How to you react when asked a hard question? Is it better to be honest, or is it better to be agreeable?

A: Well, if I have to say anything, then I’d better be honest, because I’d eventually have to spill the beans. Even if it’s something as stupid as, “What’s your favorite cheese?” Even if you want to make someone feel good, eventually you’d probably slip and say the truth. Better to just be upfront in the beginning.

Q: Are you looking forward to being a teen?

A: Yes and no. Yes, because there are a lot of cute clothes (laughing), and I get to pick fun classes. No, because of everything else. Puberty…that’s everything else.

Q: Do you want coffee?

A: Decaf. And I like cold drinks better.

Q: You’ve done private school, dual-language classes, and a gifted program, and you’ve always been able to be in tiny classes. Would you rather be in a big class and hide out, or would you rather be in a small class and always get attention?

A: Small class with lots of attention!

Q: How’s my breath? [I just had coffee AND sharp cheddar…and she’s inching closer to me, so I breathed on her.]

A: It’s like bacon and coffee. It could be worse.

Q: Gilmore Girls?

A: Yeah.

1983 versus 2016

‚ÄčEvery time my kids complain about summer camp, I wish I could take them back to the summer of 1983, when I was 11.

They could hang out in Yreka, where the only things going on for me were trips to Ringe Pool, the occasional day jaunt to Jones Beach (not THAT Jones Beach – a sandpile off the Scott River), playing on the hill behind my house, the responsibility of my then 8-year-old brother, and entertaining my mom. I’m grateful for my friend Devanie, who kept me sort of sane.

(That’s me in 1983 rocking the argyle socks with short shorts while Devanie gets to swim…)

They could experience the pain of no home electronics, no internet (NO YOUTUBE! THE HORROR!), 13 channels, and the boring drive to Medford in order to visit a mall. They could pluck cheat grass from my dog Macc’s paws. They could – gasp! – ride their bikes a few miles to TJ’s Pizza in order to play video games (at a quarter a turn – not cheap!).

Instead, I get to hear how they wish they could stay home so Pooka could watch YouTube and Boy could play on the Xbox and how life isn’t fair and why don’t we let them have sugar cereal anymore and how they would be really good and not fight and blah, blah, blah.

JUST. GET. DRESSED.

becoming

My daughter did her fourth commercial yesterday. This was a significant one, because it was the first time she had to audition to get hired AND she spoke. She was the lead of her vignette.

Everyone was amazed at her composure and maturity. They were sincerely impressed with her consistency and ability to be directed. They were extremely happy when, after four takes, the director said, “We’re good.”

He looked at me, surprised, and said, “She’s good.”

And she was good.

I’m always proud of her, but yesterday I felt something different. I could see her becoming. She’s becoming a professional. She’s becoming someone that adults know they can rely on. She’s becoming this person that is beyond me. I thought about that as everyone high-fived her. She’s at that point in time where she is creating her future, and my job is to support and step back until she asks for me. I felt a mix of happiness and longing.

The longing was its own mix. Part wanting to hold on to my little girl; part wanting to be at that phase of becoming again – this time with a mother like me. That sounds arrogant, but let me explain. When I was in the becoming phase, my mother, a schizophrenic, would get jealous. While she was proud of me, she would rage about her own missed opportunities. I would buy myself the perfect jeans, my mom would hear people compliment me, and I would come home from cheer practice or dress rehearsal and find that she had cut them to fit her. Her response? “They look better on me.” She would show up to football games overdressed in hopes people would see her, the mother of one of the cheerleaders, and say, “You look young enough to be her sister.” And she did. And she acted like it. And I felt both protective and pissed.

Rhiannon is smart, talented, and beautiful. There hasn’t been a day when I have looked at her and been angry about it. Because of my own childhood, I even look for that anger, like yesterday. What am I feeling right now? I wanted to check in with myself and see if that weird, almost mythological, jealousy had arrived. Nope. I watched her and the crew and felt that all was right in the world. Somehow I helped create this fantastic creature. What I felt was closer to awe.

She’s becoming.

And I realized I am becoming, too. I am the master of re-creation, and I am becoming, too…Becoming a mother who can really relax, knowing that the only addiction Rhiannon has is the need to do more film. Becoming a different type of business-owner, a different type of wife, a different type of step-parent, a different type of artist.

What I am not becoming is a version of my own mom, who is/was not well, and couldn’t see her daughter with awe. And I can feel sad that my mom and I will never have that. Sadness is okay. Because of that, I am a damn good mother myself. When I talk with Rhiannon, I’m saying what I wished my mother could have said to me, and it makes me greater. Because of that, Rhiannon’s star can rise as high as she wants it to go. She’s amazing, and I’m in awe.

some people

The greatest people I know look beyond their own ego to make sure the world is a better place. They don’t care about the perception of others; they just do the right thing, even if it isn’t popular.

Mistakes don’t make them wince. Hard work only makes them roll up their sleeves. What’s going on inside is more important than creating a perfect picture. No one buys into perfection anymore anyway, so why live your life hoping you’ve convinced everyone that you are better than you are? Why not use that energy differently?

Be a better example for your kids. Admit when you’re wrong. Apologize. Teach them it’s okay to give their time and friendship to those that deserve it. Tell them it’s okay to let the others go. Show them the work ethic you want them to have. Praise their talents and get them all the help you can for the things that cause them to struggle. Don’t look away from their imperfections. Let them know we all have them. Prove to them over and over that you love them as they are.

They’re watching you.

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on being mom

Tonight I cuddled with two sad kids in different bedrooms, going back and forth to assuage their worries. Every good parent has been there, at that point in which he or she hopes to say just the right thing to make things better. You choose your words carefully on nights like tonight.

For my daughter, who is sensitive and a worrier, emphasizing that some things are out of our control – especially the behavior of others – might seem counterintuitive, but I think she’s a little relieved to have been reminded. She’s happy to take that burden off of her giant heart. No 11-year-old girl should carry that.

For my son, who experienced his first real panic attack complete with shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, and uncontrollable gulping tears, it was trying to convince him that he is powerful and capable.

“My brain is making me feel weird, though.”

“It’s when your worries turn sad. It’s not a bad thing. It just means you’re not hiding from your feelings. You’re brave.”

Power has been his topic of choice a lot lately. Power is his biggest wish. He feels hopeless and helpless at times, as we all do, but this particular 11-year-old is feeling it a lot lately.

For both these kids, who are learning to navigate a world that holds them accountable when they feel so little (and, yet, at the same time so old…), it’s reminding them that they are loved by me right now and forever, no matter what else is happening. It’s backrubs and hand massages for my girl, and it’s big, tight hugs for my boy. It’s telling them over and over that the one thing I know for sure is that I will love them forever and protect them when they can’t protect themselves. It’s reminding them that I always want them to do their best, but that I understand that on some days their best is fantastic and on other days it’s the ability to breathe without crying. It’s reminding them of how special they are and that the world needs them…

#62milliongirls

It’s official! I’m the room parent for Pooka’s class! I get to plan some fun parties and assist her teacher in any way she’ll let me, and I’m excited.

I’m grateful every day that she gets to be in this special class full of other gifted kids with
a teacher who is trained to meet their special needs. I’m grateful that Rhiannon doesn’t quite grasp how lucky she actually is for this opportunity. I’m grateful she can take it for granted, especially when #62milliongirls in the world don’t get even the most basic education.

It should be a human right to know how to read and write. Without the chance to learn, how can one ever rise above?

Do what you can. Get books into the hands of ALL the kids you know. Vote for those that would feed both a child’s body AND her mind. The world deserves no less than the brightest.

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