A Different Sort of Independence

Recent events have me noticing a revolution of a different sort―and enjoying that it's been declared.

I’ve fallen under a spell and I’m completely enchanted. It only took a major disruption of our usual day-to-day routine to uncover what has me—or more precisely, who has me—so charmed and captivated.

Perhaps because he is my first born, and perhaps because he’s had more transitions of late, I find I’ve usually been more preoccupied with events in my son’s life. At 10 years old, he’s my eldest, which means he hits those life markers before my daughter. As a result, these “firsts” take on more enormity as we deal with them for the first time—first sleep away camp, first travel sports team, first in fifth grade, and so on.

As is his good, first-born fortune, he’s our first child to be able to have the amazing experience of spending the summer away at camp. We’re reveling in all the kinds of new things he’s doing there, knowing that self-discovery and self-reliance will be his major gains of the summer.

But his recent absence has let us start to discover something about our second born, our 6-year-old daughter.

She is more “first” than I could have ever imagined.

As soon as we dropped off our son at the buses that would take him to camp, our normally engaging daughter zoomed warp-speed into champagne-strata bubbly. She spoke in a monologue for the entire 45-minute car ride home. Already not much of a wallflower, she’d suddenly found that her voice no longer would suffer interruptions at the hands of her older brother.

It’s been a little over one week, and she hasn’t stopped talking yet, save for going to sleep.

His departure knocked the on-off switch of her life into a permanent ‘on.’ As she discovered what she’d never before known—the thrill of being an only—it has revealed her to me anew.

I have been gifted with more time to concentrate and focus on who she has been growing into. I am discovering that she has a very strong sense of who she is, what she wants, and what she absolutely does not, no-way-no-how, never, ever, never, ever want. She is six, after all.

One of the other things I’m learning about her is that she is also learning about herself—I guess she’s developmentally right on-time in figuring out how she’s a separate and distinct person from me as well. It’s been magical watching this happen.

The other day she asked me, “Mom, when I show you something, and you say, ‘Wow, that’s cool!’ are you saying that because you think it’s cool, or because you think that’s what I want to hear?”

I know, I’m her mother, but it still seemed like a pretty self-aware thing to think about.

Little girls and moms have such complex, tumultuous, intertwined relationships to work out. It’s really what the latest animated movie, “Brave” is all about—not only is it about a feisty, independent girl, it’s about her relationship with her mother.

I thought about that watching my daughter do battle with the waves at the beach this past weekend. Fearless, exaulting in the accomplishment, she body surfed; she dove under bigger, crashing waves; and she did that jumping move that lets you have the weightless, stomach-flipping, can't-touch-the-bottom floating feeling as the swell rolls by you. She never flinched, feared or wiped the ecstatic smile from her face.

Watching my daughter come into her own, I’m listening more to her humor, her reasoning, her preferences. She’s so much more apt than my son ever was to reveal exactly what she’s feeling—and it’s always so dramatic.

“Ugh, this is SO boring!”

“Don’t you know I don’t like ketchup? You should really know me by now.”

The other day she and I were driving in the car, and I made a poor judgment call which resulted in us getting stuck in a huge traffic jam. She and I had had one of those front seat/back seat conversations about which way I was deciding to go, so she got to witness my mistake unfurl.

I said to her, “I’m sorry I got us stuck.”

“Oh, mama, it’s not your fault. It’s my fault,” was her reply.

“Why is it your fault?”

“For agreeing with you.”

In a week celebrating the independence of our country, I’m just starting to really appreciate the independence of my daughter.

And while I know it’s revolutionary for both of us to experience it in the moment, I’m certainly going to try to make it less of a war this time around.

Marie Graham, ASP, IDS The Refreshed Home July 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Heather-what a lovely essay! Would say it's been a wonderful summer of firsts for you ALL.


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