Friday, July 3, 2015

For the Love of Girls

Growing up, I used to daydream about living in the ideal family. This family of my imagination always consisted of at least 4 or 5 sisters, and I was somewhere in the middle. We all had long, willowy names like Alexandra or Samantha and long, wavy hair. We fought, of course, but also whispered secrets late at night across the bedroom we shared. We were bridesmaids in each other's weddings and raised our children to be the best of friends.

I'm not sure where I got this idea, except that maybe it was so completely contrary to my actual immediate or extended family. No one had sisters. I didn't. My dad didn't. My mom didn't. I was surrounded by boys and men. We slouched on the couch, watching the Patriots and Red Sox at family gatherings. The uncles would guzzle down beer and tell hilarious stories and crack jokes that I didn't always completely understand. Someone might tousle my hair. There was no commaradarie of women gathering for girl talk and shopping trips (my mom and I both actually hate shopping, but maybe it's because we don't have sisters). The only time I remember a group of women hanging out was after big family dinners when the "girls" were relegated to dishes duty in the kitchen at my Nonna's house.

My two best friends in junior high/high school had sisters (one had not one but three!) and on those days when I'd daydream about my life of the future, I always had girls. Well, maybe one boy thrown in there for good measure, but I loved the idea of having girls. When we found out we were having Anna, I was absolutely thrilled. And when the tech during the ultrasound for Chloe said the word "girl," I couldn't believe it. Sisters! We would actually have a family with sisters!

I'm not sure when reality hit. Probably sometime this year, as Anna continues to barrel down the road to middle school. Some of the "girl drama" has already begun, although if I'm being honest, my oldest (and we've joked about this with her; not divulging any secrets here!) has been a bit of a drama queen since she was about, oh, nine months old.

So, somewhere between me realizing that my oldest already has better fashion sense than I do, and I having no clue what to do with my littlest one's crazy-long hair, I realized, Yikes. I am a mom of girls, and I don't know what I'm doing!

Let me reiterate. I shop like a man (straight to what I want, back out again in 10 minutes, unless it's books!). I have no real clue what to do with make-up. When I get a haircut I always tell them to give me a style that takes no time at all and that is especially for people who don't know how to do hair. The lady at the pedicure place lectured me for walking barefoot -- my feet were a scary mess. I still bite my nails whenever I'm working on a story. Since I freelance and love to write, this is an issue.

Yes, I know. Not all girls are into this stuff. I don't mean to paint a picture that's dreadfully one-dimensional. I guess it's not just all of that.

There's also the drama, the emotion, the theatrics. There are the explosions of anger and tears; the wild mood swings that have no logical explanation; the hypersensitivity.

I'm still working on this stuff. I'm still trying to put my horrid memories of ninth grade mean girls aside to calmly talk to my daughter about how to be confident and kind rather than just scare her that every middle school girl is out to take her down.

I'm still looking for confidence.

I think this is one of the great challenges of parenthood: when you realize you need to give out something you're not sure that you have.

Not long ago I stopped in to see Anna in her room. She had come up with some interesting décor ideas with painter's tape, of all things. She had her hair done up in a way I never would have been able to do for her; never would have done for myself, back in the day. I saw in a quick moment that she really was, indeed, her own person, not a mini-me reliving my adolescence. More than that, I realized that I could see myself as lacking when it came to mothering girls -- or as someone who has an opportunity to "learn as she goes."

Maybe this is a time that will not just expose my insecurities, but redeem them.

Maybe I can laugh about being hopeless with hair, but learn a little something as Anna experiments with her own. Maybe we'll go shopping, not because I like to, but because she does, and I want to spend time with her. Maybe I can share those bad experiences with snarky girls ("I'm having a party and only cool people are invited -- which means you're NOT!") not as horror stories but as proof that these years are hard, but guess what? You come out on the other side. As we talk and I see through the tempered lens of 25 years I can share things I would have done differently, even if I couldn't change other peoples' behavior.

Yeah, a gaggle of boys might have been easier. (My friends of all boys get sympathy from people all the time, and I have no idea why.) But this is what was meant for me, for us. Having girls means having another opportunity to not "go at it alone" but opening my arms and asking God for grace, sensitivity, confidence, and all of the things I may be lacking. And best of all, it's an opportunity to change my own story and to keep learning.

Although I'm never going to learn to love shopping. Except for books.

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