Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Last Cute-Kid Story (for one child, at least)

I have been back for a few days but only now have a chance even to acknowledge it "here." For what that may be worth to my legions of readers.
My older daughter, G., successfully turned 10 on Sunday. That is, of course, the basic outcome one holds out for one's children when one chooses to feed them once they arrive; but, of course, one hopes for other things for one's child besides "mere" survival. One (well, I) also hopes that one raises the sort of child that other people will not merely tolerate but actually look forward to seeing and, even better, invite to their houses to consort with their own children. I am happy, indeed thrilled, to say that G.'s mother and I (but mostly G.'s mother, since I've not lived with them for almost 5 years now) have succeeded in spades in this regard. She is a favorite among the other families in the neighborhood, at school, and at church. Finally, one hopes that one's child doesn't become a sort of walking mannequin that Society can dress up as it wills with the fashion/idea(l) du jour but, instead, discerns, picks and chooses in accordance with a set of core values that determines and helps him/her maintain his/her integrity. It may seem strange to claim that a 10-year-old has either accomplished this or is well on the way to doing so, but G., I firmly believe, has done so. To my enormous relief, when I took her clothes shopping for her birthday she showed no interest in the sorts of clothes designed with no other purpose than to present prepubescent girls as though they were sexual objects; instead, she looked at clothes that were modest but decidedly feminine (and to that I must attribute her mother's influence, but G.'s selections were still her own--neither she nor I ever raised the question of "whether Mommy will like it").
Parents hope for all the above and do what they can to help those things come to pass, but they still hold their breath and hope and hope and hope some more. And with puberty looming ever larger on G.'s horizon, I'm still holding my breath and hoping. But what makes me feel so good about my daughter's chances of becoming an adult that you, dear reader, would want to meet or have your own children be friends with or hire as an employee is this: I don't know if other parents feel this way, but the things I most delight in when I think about my daughter are those things that I cannot identify as something her mother and I are responsible for. Sure--one can encourage, say, compassion for others in one's children, but how does one really TEACH that? G.'s compassion for others is of such a depth that I can only look on in wonderment and hope that neither her parents nor someone(s) else screws that up.
Enough rhapsodizing. G. is 10. She is soon to begin maturing into womanhood. She will fail at times, and others will fail her. I fear that that deep compassion she has will make her vulnerable; but she already shows, in her very polite but firm way, that she won't put up with anyone who doesn't respect her. Thus, I'm as hopeful as a parent has a right to be that she'll be not just okay but better than okay.
Thanks for reading all this.


jennifer said...

This is a very nice revelation you've had. Thanks for sharing it. As a parent I agree with you, it is damn cool when you see your children thinking for themselves and acting according to values that are not necessarily yours per se, but certainly in accord with a greater good or consideration. Anyhow, I think it's also fantastic that you value this in her and appreciate it. Make sure you vocalize this to her and not just here. I mean that. The most painful thing for me is that my father can't see any good in me or what I value in this world and it hurts me because stranger see it more than he will ever admit to. That whole macho dad thing of unfeeling disconnect may have been the in thing in the past but children (and adults obviously) really do appreciate encouragement of originality and intelligence. Especially children. The feeling you convey here is one of pride in your daughter which is wonderful. Return that to her and she'll fly. I guarentee it. Because my father doesn't know how to encourage anything other than the high capitalist ideal and thinks human rights is "hopelessly unrealistic and idealistic" I don't get that from him. I am fortunate enough to get it from the myriad of people who share my views and we keep each other sane in an insane world. Point to this happy rant is that it is so cool you can voice this here but I really think you have to be equally if not more vocal with it to your daughter. Some parents cheerlead their children and their children tend to get annoyed with this but to me, the parent that allows their children space enough to fly on their own and believe in themselves and with a humane sincerity has accomplished more than generations have. That's my goal as a parent anyway. OFF the soapbox now. Peace!

John B. said...

Believe me when I say that I DO tell her these things whenever I talk with her. I want her to know that I know her worth as a person as SHE has defined that worth and not as others might want to. All that in the post came out because the 10th birthday is a milestone: as one of the birthday cards I looked at put it, 1-digit birthdays are sooo passe for her now. But her mother and I have always affirmed, affirmed, affirmed (and, of course, "redirected" when necessary).
I'm sorry you don't get similar affirmation from your father. I of course have nothing to base this on other than my convictions, but I think it's crucial that girls get affirmation from their fathers, that they have a male modelling for them how the future men in their lives should ideally behave toward them. But I also have to say that in your own blog you speak out loud and clear

jennifer said...

Hopefully speaking "loud and clear" is a good thing!

I wasn't assuming you didn't. Just trying to encourage from the very depths of my heart and my experience. peace~

Alex said...

Every parent goes to bed at night praying that their children turn out to be perfectly normal with a reasonable slice of the good things in life.