Monday, November 17, 2008

The differences between mothers and daughters.

When I was a kid I was "quiet". I always hated being described as "quiet." It was never said in a good way, as in "What a wonderful Quiet girl she is!" Instead it was used as though in explanation of a deficiency "Oh, don't mind her, she's just Quiet."

I knew I didn't fit in, and it didn't bother me. I was an only child and I never longed for siblings, I was perfectly content on my own. At home I was secure and content with my place in the center of my mother's universe but at school I faded at once into obscurity. I would enter role playing games within my mind, they were silent and they would last for days. The words and actions of those around me were simply integrated into the storyline. I would spend recesses alone, pacing around the perimeter of the school grounds, collecting treasures from the bits of childhood detritus that washed constantly out to the perimeter of the playground to become entangled in the fence like flotsam around the edges of a pond. Beating my wings against the bars of my cage.

I once overheard 2 women (my 6 year old mind classified them simply as teachers) discussing whether I might not be a high functioning autistic.

I always felt that I simply didn't belong here, that I was just passing the time until the day when I would find a doorway to Narnia hidden somewhere along that school fence. People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would give some dull, rote answer. It was easier than explaining that I didn`t really intend to grow up at all, I was just biding my time until I found my way to Wonderland, Neverland, Terebinthia, Oz, or someplace new, just for me.

I grew up, I realized that this world was pretty amazing in its own right and I started wanting to explore it rather than leave it. Although I still held on to the belief that someday something special would happen to me, to show me what I was meant to do. I was too old for Narnia, but perhaps I could still slip between the standing stones and travel through time, or be abducted by friendly aliens. I made friends, although not very many. I began to be present, rather than zoning out. I learned to share my opinions, rather than simply assuming no one would understand. I learned to be a part of the world, but I never learned to fit in.

Then, when I was 16 I met my first boyfriend, at 17 I was pregnant and at 18 I was a mother, tethered forever to this world by the weight of this person I had brought into it.

My daughter isn't quiet, I don't actually think she's capable of not speaking for more than 20 seconds. Even actuvities that might be considered quiet, like say colouring, are accompanied by a running narative complete with sound effects and periodic senseless screams. She doesn't zone out. From the moment she was born she has been Present. Not only does she actively participate in her environment, she is usually the center of attention. Where I was cripplingly shy, she is recklessly friendly. Where my games were silent and prolonged, her games are noisy and short-lived. Where I would simply accommodate whatever those around me seemed to be doing, she directs everyone around her, making them aware of the role they are to play and the lines they are to say. Where my report cards said 'Needs to be encouraged to participate more' Hers say 'Needs to remember to take turns and let others share the spotlight' Where I was happy to play on my own, she desperately wants kids to play with at all times.

Everyday after school she asks to have friends over. She wants play dates with strangers met 4 minutes ago at the park. I love that making friends is easy for her, but how do I tell her I don't want to have that kid over because the idea of speaking to his mother; with her perfectly styled hair and makeup at 9am on the playground, clutching her Tim Horton's mug in her manicured hand, pushing her 600$ stroller where her baby sleeps wrapped in Baby Gap, makes me feel like I did when I was 6 years old and I had to force myself to interact with people who were so alien from me that I simply have no idea how to relate. And I don't want to feel like that. It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin and I hate that it still bothers me to feel judged by others, but I do. For the sake of my outgoing child, I do try. I have learned how to make simple chitchat about the weather, the baby etc. But it's still not something that comes naturally to me.

Not surprisingly I don't have any close Mommy friends. While I was having babies my friends from high school were entering university, our lives and priorities have, understandably, diverged. I still love to get together with them for child-free time occasionally, but sometimes I wish I had a friend with kids. Someone who could relate to me and talk with me about things that actually matter while our kids play together. Someone who finds playgroups nerve wracking and wants more out of life than cooking and keeping house and buying designer clothes.

Will things be easier for Goober? Probably. I am jealous of how easily she makes friends, of how clearly she knows who she is and what she wants. But sometimes I feel a little sad that she isn't a bit more like me. I wonder if she is missing anything by not spending hours quietly looking for fairies under toadstools. I wonder if her imagination will see her through tough times like mine has. I wonder if she will be my friend when she grows up.

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