I am the mother of 5. Here's what I have learned about motherhood so far... just when you think that you have learned the rules of the game, the game changes. I made it through the terrible twos relatively unscathed, but I have a feeling that the terrible twos will be no comparison to the teen years. It's scary. The scariest thing of all is that I will have three teenaged girls in the house at one time! I don't know about the teenage boy thing, but I was a teenage girl... God help me!
So far the pre-teens have been challenging. It's tough to know what is hormonal and what is bad behavior. Don't get me wrong I have a good kid, but she's a normal kid. Sometimes when I hear myself talking to her I cringe at the tone I use. I would never speak to Elly like that, and yet it seems acceptable to talk to Grace like that. I read an article once about how to deal with teens. The author suggested that when you feel like you are going to blow your fuse with your teen, think of them when they were toddlers. I have to try that.
The other tough thing about a pre-teen (although this applies to all kids) is fostering their self-esteem. Without good self-esteem they may engage in risky behavior. I think about how different my life would have been had I good self-esteem. I did not engage in risky behaviors, but I made some bad decisions based on low self worth. I did not gain self confidence until I was in my mid-thirties. I often think wistfully "If only I was the ME now, then." However if I was the ME then that I am now, I would not be the ME of today (very philosophical). I want my kids to leave my home feeling ready for the world, and that falls on me to teach them that.
Our local health centre runs a program every year called "True Me". It is a mother daughter group for girls aged 10 - 13. The woman who runs it called to see if Grace and I would like to sign up. It's free and it allows Grace and I one on one time (something with 4 kids there is shamefully not enough of), I said yes. I did not really know what to expect last Wednesday, our first night. I knew some of the moms, but they were not friends. I knew them by sight and to make small talk to. We all sat around in a circle. One of the first things that we had to do is fill out a bunch of questionnaires. There were questions like "How do you think your daughter's self image is?" That was easy, she has a great self image, she loves herself. "How do you feel about your body?" Oh tricky. I have battled my entire life with that one. As a teen and into my early twenties I had bulimia, notice that I don't say suffered from, for me it was no hardship. For me it was the lazy girl's weight loss tool. I could eat what I liked, and then.... it was gone. I always thought I was "fat". I look at pictures of myself and would like to reach through that picture frame and shake that girl. "You are beautiful, you are perfect, just LIVE!". In my twenties I gave up. Then I had a husband who loved me just the way I was, and it did not matter. Would I love to snap my fingers today and be thin, you bet, but I am o.k. for the most part in the skin I'm in. My kids know I am fat, I know that I am fat. I tell them "Would you love me more if I was thin?" I ask them when they ask why I'm fat. "NO" is their response. "Well there you go" I tell them. To me it vitally important to drum it through to all my kids to love the skin they are in. Make healthy choices, but enjoy your life.
We had to introduce ourselves and say one thing that we liked about ourselves. That was very tricky. Not for Grace, Grace could list off all the things that she loved about herself without even having to think (maybe I'm doing a good job after all). I on the other hand was stumped. How do I say something that I like about myself, but not look immodest? In the end I said something lame, like "I'm generous" (which I am, but really "generous"). Apparently I still have some self-esteem work to do.
One of the other activities we did was to take three paper petals and write what makes your mother / child special. I sat there teary eyed as the daughters all read what they wrote about their mothers and what the mothers wrote about their daughters. I felt like an idiot. I looked everywhere but at the other mothers, and then I accidentally looked at one of the other mothers and she had tears. I then looked around the circle and saw not a single dry eye. We were in a safe place, and we all LOVED our daughters. My daughter LOVED me. Sometimes we are so busy doing that mother daughter dance that I think we forget just how much we love each other. It was nice to have a reminder. I'm looking forward to Grace and my time tonight. It's "our" time. We walk over together and talk, we walk home together and talk. It does not matter what we learn, that's just icing!
I plan each Wednesday to update you on our "True You" class (kind of like the at home Cole's notes). I hope that you will share your own experiences with your pre-teen daughter. I just hope that you will share. We're all in this together!