Friday, September 16, 2011

Question marks and hearts

Sitting at a desk doodling, trying to pay attention to the teacher.  My mind wandering all over the place.  "Wonder what that girl over across the room is thinking, what shows are new tonight on tv, I feel fat, geez that guy is so late, pay attention to the teacher, I'm tired," is what my mind is saying.

No this is not a flashback to a 1989 pre-pre-algebra class.  Yup, I was in pre-pre-algebra in 1989 and I was way too old for the class.  That is a whole other story, but I do believe I have mentioned I suck at math.  I do not lie.

No, no, this story takes place my friends at Curriculum Night 2011.  I am sitting in the uncomfortable little chair at my daughter's second grade desk.  Trying to focus on what her teacher is saying.

A line is blurring for me.  Lucy, my daughter, is so much like me in so many ways.  And I am terrified.  

Before I left to meet her teacher, Lucy was collecting items to put in her "All About ME Bag."  The whole idea is to put five items in a bag that represent something you like and then present it to the classroom full of new second grade friends.  She nonchalantly threw items into the bag, or so I thought.  

I took a peek and pulled out a graphic dinosaur book, a medal from a fun run she reluctantly did and a torn up baseball.   "Lucy, why are you putting those things in the bag," I ask with a look of bewilderment.

"Well, I like to read and I think the boys will really like the dinosaur book,"  she says confidently, like 'I got this mom, back off.'  "And the medal is from that race I won."

Won? Okay.  
She was playing to the crowd, trying to impress, trying to please.  Tricks right out of my old playbook.

I groaned and rolled my eyes, exactly what I tell my children not to do to me.  "Lucy, this ME Bag is about you, honey," I told her.  "It is not about what the boys will like or impressing anyone."

Her turn to groan and roll her eyes.

I asked her what she liked to do most in the world.  "Play pretend," she replied.

"Exactly!" I shouted happily.  "Let's take these things out of the bag and put things in you like to play pretend with.  You are creative and have such an imagination.  Never be ashamed of those things, they are wonderful things," I was starting to talk faster and my heart was racing.  "Be proud of who you are.  Who cares what the boys will like.  You are so smart and wonderful.  You are enough. You are loved."

Lucy said, "Okay, FINE.  I'll put my action figures in the bag if that's what you want to do."

That damn line blurring.  The only ME in that bag was well, me and all my anxieties.  

Back in the classroom I am wondering how this whole mother/daughter adventure is going to play out.  I don't know what it is supposed to look like after about age 13.  From about that age my mother became my problem, my cross to bear, my enemy, my burden, my heart's desire.  And it never changed.

Honestly, most days I consider myself a smashing success because I am not popping Percocet like candy or hiding Bacardi bottles in my underwear drawer like my own mother.  

But most of the other days I don't feel like I am doing such a bang up job.  And I can't believe I am not still in pre-pre-algebra.  My dad said once that he feels like he is about 35 and some days now in his 60s, looking in the mirror can take him by surprise.  

When did I become the grown up?  Am I supposed to know the answers?  I look down and I am doodling question marks and hearts on the paper in front of me.

I guess that is all we can do, proceed through this parenting adventureland with lots of question marks and hearts.  This statement does not comfort me and I still need someone to tell me all the answers.  Because I am afraid that I still think I am 15 and get surprised when I look in the mirror.

And yes that means that I was in pre-pre-Algebra when I was 15.  I don't lie.

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