Thursday, August 12, 2010

On Her Terms

So I'm sitting at a Borders at 9:00 in the morning and it is like the Lonely Hearts Club in here. Honestly. I was here on Tuesday and it was the same people. And they're all totally silent. And I wonder if they all just sit here, companions and strangers, every single morning. They are drinking coffee and surfing (so am I) and it is killing me because I want to start a singalong or a get-to-know-you game or a support group or something.

Camille is in Intensive Dance all week - which means I am in The City most of the day this week and it is kind of lovely because well, did I mention I'm just sitting at Border's with a bunch of people who are desperately trying to pretend they're alone but not wanting to actually be alone, so they all come here to do it, and we all just sit happily alone and not bothering each other? Although, as you probably guessed from my initial comment, I don't think I could take very much of this. But small chunks of it are quite nice. I believe that larger chunks would just turn creepy. The guy in the corner is pretending not to look at me, but he's looking at me. Because I am the New Girl. I am Odd Girl Out.

I am often Odd Girl Out. Like at Camille's dance studio, there seems to be two cliques of mamas and I'm not in either. One group comes from the gym...little gym outfits, thin arms with lots of muscle and gnarly veins...blond (this is Texas). The other group is the homeschool Christian mommies (this is Texas) and they all have conservative attire, no make-up, and their little girls "don't do jazz" because everyone knows that just eventually leads to pole dancing. And then there's me. Not fresh from the gym - hair currently the color of Sharon Osbourne's (this was not intentional but now it's growing on me) - usually a bandanna wrapped around it and boy shorts and a t-shirt. Ellie, when she was with me last week, looked at the cliques and was like, "Hmm, Mom. Which club are you in?" Smirk.

Anyway - speaking of the Queen of Smirk and Being Odd Girl Out - Ellie turns 18 today. I can't believe it! Ellie has never wanted to go with the flow. She came into this world on her own terms (13 days late, at that) and she's pretty much continued to inflict those terms on the world ever since. I thought I was prepared - I'd read all the baby books, after all- but this kid broke the mold. I was immediately Odd Mom Out - as my baby hadn't received the memo as to how she was supposed to behave. Now nobody blamed her, seeing as how it was obviously my fault (and I was in total agreement with this assessment). It was, quite frankly, very hard. She was what they called "high needs." And 18 years ago, it was all about getting the baby to fit into your world, not the other way around. And she would have none of that - although I certainly kept trying, because I thought it was for her own good (that's what everybody said) and that it would make my life easier (I don't know if it would have because I never succeeded).

I have enjoyed my best and proudest moments as Ellie's mom, and I harbor guilt and shame over my lowest points, also as Ellie's mom. But it seems we've both come out of it okay. As soon as I realized (and received the support I needed to change my way of thinking) that she really did need to be in control of her own needs and desires....even as a baby and toddler....and that those needs and desires were valid and in her best interest...whew! Relatively smooth sailing ever since.

I guess I had an image in my mind, when I was pregnant, of what my baby would be like. A happy, content, obedient, and basically convenient baby. She was nothing like that. But I also had this image in my mind, when I was pregnant, of what my daughter would be like (as a young woman)....strong, opinionated, self-advocating, intelligent, caring, and compassionate...and she IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS. I think the two (the baby image and the woman image) were not compatible. It seems that all of the characteristics we value in "good" babies, are not the same characteristics we value in adults. If you take the "bad baby" (yes I'm choking on those words) traits....let's see....all those things that make it hard for us to sleep and maintain control over our households and schedules....those demanding, inquisitive, self-advocating, insistent, strong babies....and you transfer those traits to adults.... Pretty much exactly what we're hoping to send out into the world, isn't it?

So - Ellie - thank you for teaching me. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for bursting into my life, rocking my world, shaking up my universe, and insisting that we all play by your rules. Your rules, it turns out, were the right ones. You are exactly what I hoped I'd have. You are IT. I didn't know how to build you that way....definitely started off with the wrong blueprint...but you knew what to do and here you are....all perfect in every way.

Today is Ellie's birthday. And mine, too. It was the beginning of a whole new life - I was reborn on this day....18 years ago...when an awesome force arrived on the scene....and we named her Ellie.


  1. "I have enjoyed my best and proudest moments as Ellie's mom, and I harbor guilt and shame over my lowest points, also as Ellie's mom. "

    Sing it, sister!!
    I'm sitting here harmonizing.

    Happy Birthday to YOU... changes your whole life, doesn't it?

    Loved this post. I especially love the 'bad baby' (ack, that one bothers me too) 'good woman' comparison.

    Yes and yes.

    Have had similar discussions with the parents of one of 'my' kids. That the traits she has now, of standing up for herself and putting up with zero crap are very important and to encourage it, even if it's just a little inconvenient for the school.


    Thanks for this post.

    Good luck at Borders. Hope you meet a non-creepy friend.

  2. Made my eyes water up. Happy birthday to you both!

  3. That was beautiful. But I refuse to get all emotional. I mean, I'm a dude afterall!
    Happy Bithday Ellie.
    Your Friend, m.

  4. Happy *birth* day to you too. I got all teary reading your post, your Ellie sounds like one awesome girl and I guess you get to have a teeny tiny little bit of the credit for it. So bask and enjoy!!

  5. Another teary-eyed reader here. Beautiful post. :)