I wrote this and posted it in April 2012 and it has become one of my favorite posts because it’s about my daughter, our family, the way we are. Annie is 10 now and Benjamin just turned 8 – my summer babies. We fight and bicker and I get annoyed about “ALL the Minecraft”, but we have our sweet, bottle-it-up moments too and this is one of those moments.
We’re in the car, windows rolled down, words measured and aired. My family holds some of our best conversations strapped into our seats driving toward various destinations.
My eight-year-old daughter Annie, who has expressed a steady stream of thoughts and opinions, interrupts herself, “Are we always learning?”
I nod, “Yes, we are. We’re taking in the world around us. That’s one of the best things about life. We always get to learn.”
“Why do people do bad things if they know it isn’t good for them?”
I wonder why all the philosophizing, but I’m going with it. “I don’t know. We have choices, but sometimes we don’t make the right choices. Or we want to try something out, so we do, and then find out it’s a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.” I catch her eyes in the rear-view mirror, eyes like mine. “I do know it’s important to think for yourself.”
She wonders, “Is it important to like yourself?”
“Yes it is. To know and respect and like you is very important.”
In my girlhood I often felt hesitant and cautious, searching for something just out of reach. I had trouble identifying my emotions at the age of eight, but I knew I was lost. I silenced my confusion, who could understand me? Instead I played to my strengths. I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.
From lost and uncomfortable to insecure and loathing, I could not like myself. I wanted to, but didn’t know how. Years later I peeled myself from the wall, abandoned friendships that harmed, and stopped hiding in the shadows. It was okay to want more. It was okay to like me. It wasn’t arrogance. It was necessary.
When I get to observe Annie in her ballet class, I can see from fingertips to toes she is armed with confidence. Concentrating on a drawing, giggling with her best friend, bounding across the yard, she is fearless.
I once lost Annie at the school playground.
I can’t see her anywhere. “Annie! Annie!” I’m frantic. My fingers graze a friend’s shoulder as I dart by, “Have you seen her?” My eyes are everywhere at once. And I stop. Of course. I walk over to the tallest tree, the best tree to climb.
“Hi, Mommy! I’m up here!” she chirps. High, high in the tree is my girl. I gulp air, consoled by the realization that I know her, I found her.
In the car I listen to her chatter, her curiosity and I breathe; please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.
in the song San Francisco by the Mowgli’s. It’s my summer jam. You have to listen to it LOUD and with the windows rolled down.