Portrait of a Young Lady and Things Unsaid

JulieThis post is sticky and gooey and soppy and I’m so proud of my daughter that my throat aches.  With parenting you always worry you’re doing it wrong, you’re not doing enough, but then you realize, no, you’re doing fine, you’re doing GREAT actually.  I needed this today, and I’m crying over it and I’m sharing.  Fair warning.   

Today I was supposed to have a block of parent-teacher conferences for Julie (I’m using her real name today), but with one thing or another going on at work, I couldn’t get over to the school.  So I sent an email to each teacher explaining the schedule conflict, that I had looked at her report card and was pleased with her grades and how she was managing schoolwork and sports and activities and social life – all of which I consider to be the true test of middle school.  If there was nothing they felt was pressing to discuss, I was happy to call it a “no news is good news” conference and hopefully we could chat another time.  But by all means, feel free to call myself or my husband if there was anything they needed to discuss.  Yours very truly in Christ, blah blah blah and send.

At the end of the email to Julie’s social studies and english teacher, I tagged on something a little more personal:  the memory of how the two of them had come up to us as we were waiting on line at the funeral home in October, at the wake of the two boys so tragically killed during Hurrican Sandy.  I recalled to them how they had both hugged Julie so tight, spoke to her so kindly, and how I had nearly been undone by their warmth and compassion.  “It’s something I’ve never forgotten, will never forget,” I finished.  “Life is so fleeting, and too often things go unsaid, and I just felt it was important to share this memory and let you know what it meant to me, to all of us.”

Over the next hour, a barrage of teacher emails came flooding back, and none of them had to do with grades:

“Thank you so much for your kind words, now I know where Julie gets her kindness from.  She certainly is one of the sweetest, most sincere young ladies I know.”

“She’s a real delight in the classroom, I’m glad to get to know her better this year”

“You’re right, life is precious, and we’re a family here in North Salem.  I’m so glad that you could feel that genuine love and concern for our students, and I’m touched that you would share that back with me.”

“Julie is such a wonderful young lady.”

“Your email made my day.”

“Julie always walks in and leaves with a smile on her face.”

“No news is good news indeed – Julie is a wonderful young lady who does everything you could ask with a smile.”

“Thank you, I love a “no news is good news” conference, the cancellation was no trouble at all, it let me get a cup of coffee!”

“Thank you!”

“Thank you so much, this made my day.”

The only personal conference I had was a phone call with her math teacher, because math is the bane of the existence around here.  Math is the 70 in the bouquet of 90-somethings.  Math sucks.  And it sucked for me in middle school, I totally sympathize.  But again, the phone call was less about the grade, and more about the attitude.  “She is always smiling,” Dr. F said, “and I can see it’s hard for her and I can see the struggle, but she is all right with it being hard for her.  She sees the bigger picture.  And I’m telling you, you can’t teach that.  That comes from her home life.”

I very openly told her how sometimes, if a math problem has me stumped, I’ll get on Facebook and put the problem out to my own friends.  I didn’t think that would be well-received but she laughed.  “Look at what you’re teaching her though!  You don’t sit and tear your hair out – you show her that you will go anywhere and do anything to find the answer.  We live in a world of innumerable resources, there’s no reason to suffer through it alone.  You think outside the box, you think communally, and she sees that.  She’s a great kid and she’s going to be fine.  I have a few strategies here to help her out….”

Julie2I printed out all the emails, highlighting the good parts in pink, and I left them on Julie’s bed for her to find.  And now a certain young lady is standing up just a wee bit straighter today.

As is her mother.

Life is short and too often things go unsaid.  If someone made a difference in your life – however big, however small – tell them.  If you have a memory of someone that touches you to this day – tell them.  If something random makes you think of someone – tell them.  Tell them.  It’s so simple, it’s such a little thing, but it makes so much difference.  It can make their day.

And if something is hard for you, let it be hard.  Don’t suffer alone – we live in a world of innumerable resources.  Look for answers outside the box, look to your community, do it together.

You’re going to be fine.

A Young Girl’s Rite of Passage

Panda’s been asking for a long time….and always having second thoughts. I’ve remained casual, repeating that there is no “have to” about this, only “want to”, and whenever she’s ready I will be happy to take her to get her ears pierced.

This weekend, she took the plunge.

I really didn’t know what to expect….whether she’d freak after the first one was done and I’d have to hold her down while they did the other one….tears and screaming….But she was a champ! And oh the look on her face, thrilled to the tips of her toes. “I can’t believe it Mom!” she kept saying. “I can’t believe I really did it!”

The buildup….

The anticipation (goodbye, naked ear….)

Ear #1….

Whew! OK, not so bad….

Ear #2. Now you know what’s coming, there’s more of a flinch….

And done! Wow!

Darling girl….

She was heart-breakingly beautiful today. She’s been in a ponytail phase for a few weeks and suddenly today had her hair down in all it’s spiral-curled glory. And then the new pink earrings sparkling through. So pretty…

Her hair is such a social calling card. She gets stopped constantly by strangers who coo and comment on her red curls. Flying down to Florida, two couples traveling asked if they could touch her hair for good luck before they got on the plane. Then they saw Redman bringing up the rear and went crazy, had to touch his head, too. Double all this when we hang out with my Neeces, both of whom sport the red hair.

I want Panda to love her hair. I want her to feel that her hair is unique and special and beautiful and it can be an expression of herself – exploding with joy and curlicued fun. She really wouldn’t be Panda without it…

One can hope.