It's been another heavy few days here. But this week it isn't destruction on a national scale that's keeping our attention; it's matters of the heart, the voices in our heads and the idea of being 'just right' for everyone else.
I told you. Heavy.
My girl came to me in tears on Sunday morning, saying that she needed to talk to me about something, but she was afraid. She was worried she'd be in trouble, worried I'd be disappointed, worried I'd be mad. She told me what was bothering her, through sobs and deep breaths, and stood before me waiting for whatever punishment she was sure I was going to impose.
The issue was something she'd said in a moment of nervous silence to a classmate. A boy. Somehow observations about a soccer game turned to a confession on her part that she tends to kick her brother in a particularly sensitive area. She used the word crotch.
She thought that was the end of the world. She thought the boy who heard her say it was going to get her in trouble. She'd been carrying this worry around since last fall–the beginning of the school year–and it came up because the boy asked her last week 'do you remember what you said about your brother's crotch?'.
We're in fourth grade and the hormones are starting. The mood swings, the tears, the drama that I've been dreading these past few months are all building and I saw it all flood out that morning. My girl–my fearless, do-what-I-want-no-matter-who-likes-it-or-not girl–was more worried about what everyone else would think than she was about anything else.
And so it begins.
This means that my place as mom changes, too. I have to learn how to walk the fine line between disciplinarian and confidante and cheerleader and voice of reason. It's different with her than it was with the boys, at least so far.
So this first conversation was important. It sets the stage for whether she can trust me, whether she can come to me with questions, whether she has to be afraid that I'll love her less if she's completely herself because she's disappointed or angered or otherwise annoyed me. She doesn't know it, but she's testing me now for how we'll interact later. I want to ace this test.
We talked about being afraid to say things, and how when we're afraid and hold it all in it gets bigger and bigger until it turns into something else entirely. We talked about the power of being the one to say 'I'm sorry' and that it's different to truly mean it instead of just to say it. We talked about making mistakes, and I admitted that I made my fair share when I was a girl, too.
And that's when my girl taught me something important. She said 'that's why people say 'you're only human', right? Because we make mistakes. We're only human.'
I wish you could hear the way she said 'only' because it broke my heart. Kind of like the way the word just ruffled my feathers in a certain context, the word only hung in the air, daring me to explain to her that yes, that's what we mean when we say we're only human but that being 'only human' is anything but being only human.
Because to be only means to be merely and that just doesn't fit her or anyone else I love. She is resplendently, dazzlingly, fiercely and gloriously human in her flaws, her strengths, her ebbs, her flows, her giggles, her tears and every other nuance that makes me alternately swoon, swear and shake my head. I want her to know that. I never want her to think that being 'only human' is a pass for being anything other than her awesome self.
I have the feeling that perhaps that's my primary job now, as a mom; a walking dictionary of sorts, redefining those words she's heard or somehow assigned to herself without much thought. Because those words are seeds that sprout into the voices she'll hear as she becomes a teenager and learns to love herself even when she feels like no one else could. I want those words to be ones that serve her well, not words that drag her down.