Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feminine Genius: We know D.R.A.M.A.

Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa: Girls are OK.

(First, a note! Some commenters on "Abstinence in Marriage: Que Pasa?" were unceremoniusly dumped into my spam folder. Sorry! Now you're published, as you should have been long ago. Y'all are brilliant.)

After confirming that I "really have three girls," the next insight offered me by most strangers is, "Oh, your poor husband."

The third apothegm runs along the lines of consolation to the downtrodden, "Oh, well, don't worry. Girls are so much easier than boys."

If I have allowed the conversation to get this far, I am obviously too weary to deflect their advances with humor. Either that, or I have become so accustomed to the inane babblings of the pre-schooler mind that two or three more idiocies aren't likely to bother me.

But, really, people. Girls are easier than boys? Have you spent much time with a 12-year-old girl? Have you spent much time with any woman between, say, the ages of 10 1/2 and 51? I hear echoing in my head, "The days are coming, sayeth the Lord, when I shall strike the land with doom."

We are sugar and spice for about 5 years, then fade into a sweet sort of lemon-zest dessert, and then. Just plain lemon juice.

Poor Miriam. She's had a brilliant 5 weeks (almost) of homeschool. She's had a brilliant childhood, in general, to be honest. She's smart. She's gorgeous. She's good at almost anything (except opening doors or jars). She is sweet and eager to please.

But oh, the drama.

Today the world fell apart. I asked her to narrate for me (just me! her mother!) the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. She knows this story (we've been reading it since she could talk!), she loves to narrate (she's been talking since she was 10 months!), and she has memory like glue (when she was four, she memorized an entire Dr. Seuss book!).

But today, she froze. She couldn't even begin. Because I was asking her to do something different: "Just tell me the story."

"Mommy, I can only think if you're writing it down!"

"Miriam, I'm not going to write this one down. I'm helping Belly build her Lego house, and this is also an important way of telling for you to learn. Just tell me."

Tears. A full-out fit. Neither of us backed down. But what struck me was her (ir)rationale: "Mommy, it's too embarrassing!"

Embarrassing is her code word for: I might mess up. I'm going to make a mistake. It's not worth trying, because I can't do it perfectly.

It's the same reason she won't try her new bike: I might mess up. I might get hurt. It's not worth trying.

It's the same reason she won't play the new piano song: I might mess up. It's not worth trying.

Embarrassing.

This runs deep in the family: It's too hard. Our over-achiever front belies a deep insecurity: What if I mess up? It's better not to try.

I remember piano pieces I refused to learn, races I refused to run, classes I quit, and professors I never went to for help. All because of this fear, paralyzing and ugly. The woman hates to be wrong, but even more so to be caught being wrong. I don't mind a mistake that no one can see, that I can fix on my own (Spanx, anyone?), but oh! to be seen in my imperfection. That makes me throw a fit.

So, today's drama was less about my daughter than about me: I can see with a magnifying glass into her soul, even at the moment she feels most alone.

And that, too, is a mark of a woman. We hate to be caught in the fault (as do men), and all those hormones and intensity of feelings can make us cry and fight and throw ourselves to the floor in despair. But that intensity also gives us--poor children of Eve--the possibility of that deeply personal bridge: I know you. I have been where you are. I will be there with you again.

I want to try to teach my daughter, poor little daughter of me, to take that drama all locked up inside herself and let it out. Let her recognize that her struggle goes on in the hearts of so many others. Let the drama breed, not more drama, but womanly compassion and a fierce devotion to the weakest souls still in the grip of that struggle. Let her drama and fear of embarrassment translate into understanding and gentleness.

The feminine genius, without which the world could not be saved.

Image source: Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa.
Image source: The Repentant.

5 comments:

Katherine said...

I have four girls and drama is the beast I wrestle. I've wondered if boys could be that way but as I don't have any sons (yet) I don't know.

On the one hand, I love the passion my girls have. Whether it is a passion for life or fun or love or laughter, the spirit and passion of girls can be a force all its own. The downside is that when they don't get their way or they do feel upset or insecure, it becomes a show you could sell tickets for.

If you figure out how to teach girls to channel that drama into compassion I am all ears.

Modest Mama said...

As a mother of four boys and one little girl, I am certain God knew what he was doing. My daughter is more difficult to parent than all the boys put together.

Marie said...

Drama and oversensitivity are not exclusive to girls. One of my two boys is more tempermental, melancholic, sensitive and dramatic than any girl I have ever know. He is now 13 and cries over every little thing. But at the same time he is all the challenge of the typical active boy. Go go go,lots of energy and not always a place to put it. He is exhausting. My other son is like this also but to a lesser extent. So I have the gift of the challenges of the typical girl and the typical boy in both my boys. Because I have only two children I always get judged by the other big families in my homeschooling group who think I have it easy. Let's face it, there are few easy families.

Eve said...

Joy was easier to pottytrain than Simon, but that's about it. Both kids present their own challenges and their own joys (no pun intended). I watched Joy skip along the sidewalk this morning on our walk to school, and she was such a happy, passionate little spirit, it took my breath away. Simon is a lot more stubborn than she is, but he is such a great snuggler and has the greatest laugh. I wouldn't trade them or change them for anything.

Melanie B said...

Bella has similar reactions when I try to get her to tell me about something we've read. Where does that intense fear of getting it wrong come from? I haven't even tried to have her do narration yet, just asked a few questions and already such resistance.

And oh yes the drama. Such tears and agonies over every little tiny thing.

I love what you say about how the flip side of that drama can be empathy. How to cultivate that? It's a constant struggle; but I am starting to see a little helper emerge in Bella. She anticipates needs and makes voluntary sacrifices. This morning when I complained about being so very tired from a myriad of night wake ups from three different small folk, Bella offered: "We can skip my special St Therese reading time this afternoon and you can take a nap." What a sacrifice! I think St Therese is definitely rubbing off. I suppose that's really the way to cultivate it: fire up their imaginations with examples compassion and sacrificial love. Let the love of drama lead them into being dramatic about renunciation....