mimi it is alex sorry to ask but can I spend the night tonight the sisters have been driving me crazy check your voice mail I left a message please mimi I so need to get out of here there is so much yelling at syd and cam it is crazy call me or text me back love ya alex
A minute later text #2:
You could drop me off on your way to work
Another minute later text # 3:
We could walk in the morning
Sure Alex. Have Mom drop you off after you’re done serving at mass tonight. Bring a movie YOU want to see and your workout clothes to walk in the morning.
I could sense my oldest granddaughter’s desperation over the cellular airwaves. Using her mom’s phone to text me at work was the first indicator she needed some space from the rest of the family. Some of her friends have phones already, at age 11. Her generation seems to have rushed through being children straight into teenager. No more rite of passage traditions for things like your own cell phone, or shaving your legs. These adolescent kids have skipped an entire few years of earning rights on their pubescent bucket lists. Thirteen seemed to have been the magical number for me. A transistor radio (before you ask, it was the I-pod of the early sixties), wearing make-up, and shaving my legs were treats of crossing over into teen. I was guilty of fast forwarding, shaving my legs early, and breaking my parent's rules at Girl Scout camp at age 12. That was the result of a few creepy, pimply faced, chubby little Boy Scouts making fun of the albino monkey fuzz on my gams at a co-ed swim party. Arriving home disobedient, with freshly nicked smooth legs did not sit well with the Colonel (my dad). I spent the next year, my legs looking(and feeling) like the face of a drunken sailor after a five day blackout. Black stubbly hairs were fodder for much bullying, making my days in sixth grade, a nightmare. I think this changed me. If I couldn’t be freed from unwanted hair, I would use hair. I discovered the hair on my head was a great distraction and mask to hide behind. I was the pioneer of “big hair” several decades before it was popular!
I would like to say female adolescence is the best time of our lives, but I don’t really think it is for most young girls.
Alex arrived mid-evening. We slipped on our summer jammies, made a big bucket of popcorn and cuddled on the couch watching Flicka. It was a great story with messages. A tale of tenacity, perseverance, following your dreams, and mostly being true to who you are. It also turned out to be a good conversation starter. We covered the gamut of topics and insecurities. I felt honored that she could share so uninhibitedly with me. I also was astounded at the depth of her understanding, both of herself and others. I know this wasn’t a trait I possessed at 11. We talked about growing up in a small town and moving away someday. One of my fears has always been, she and her sisters would settle in comfortably, not knowing there were choices and lifestyles to be explored. She alleviated that worry. She recognizes she’s living in a teeny plastic backyard pool and there is a big ocean out there. She knows she will soon outgrow it, because when you live in a small pond, your experiences are limited and can, if you allow them to, limit you. She’s not interested in cutting herself short. Her dreams are for the bright lights of NYC or California. At least for today. After all, she said, “there are no celebrities here!” I had to chuckle silently. Her mother too had dreams of being an attorney in Los Angeles. I think the lifestyle looked appealing as she saw it from her living room, through the television show LA Law!
Alex has made great strides in the last year, walking through some big fears and has no intention of stopping now. She’s facing a new challenge, watching a few of her friendships change. I don’t know why this is, but it appears to be a universal issue with girls. Especially in girls in adolescence and teens. She's experienced some rejection from friends, leaving her feeling somewhat isolated and lonely in school. It’s a very small school and options are limited on who to hang with. Interests are changing, and these friends aren’t seeing the benefits in some of the things she chooses to do. As they are getting older, their tastes and talents are diversifying and rather than accepting this and enjoying each others differences, kids tend to break off into tribes and through those tribes mean girls are born.
She’s questioning things about herself that previously she felt comfortable with. Suddenly, she too is dissatisfied with the soft white blond hair on her legs. She struggled with whether or not to join a theatre group this summer for a production of Annie. She walked through that fear and got a speaking/singing part! Some friends thought it was stupid. She has a beautiful voice and she came very close to allowing it to be silenced, just to fit in. She took part in the production, met a few new friends, her confidence soared.
So many topics she covered at our slumber party. I let her do most of the talking. My heart broke and danced in delight as she invited me inside her 11 year old head. I identified with so much.... Girls will be girls, at any age.
I wanted to share many things. I wanted to tell her mean girls come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I’ve met a few who have grown up to be 50, 60, and even 70 year old hostile girls. They weave in and out of our lives, trying to grab hold of the corners and pull the rug out from underneath you. I also wanted to tell her what I have come to recognize. I know they do that because of their own insecurities. Jealousy- they think you have something they don’t. They haven’t yet learned, they have their own special greatness and there is no need to suck the good out of someone else's or diminish another's light. They strike out at you afraid you will take something from them; friends, men, status, recognition, not understanding no one else can take anything from you if it truly belongs with you. They live in fear. I wanted to tell her, there are only two ways we can live - in fear or in love. We need to love them. We don’t need to like them and we definitely should probably do that from afar, safely looking out of the peep hole of the closed door keeping it shut to the negative energy they can spew into our lives. I wanted to tell her, taking a break from these kinds of friendships is just like taking this overnighter, away from her sisters. It’s just good self care.
The words, “people will forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel” ran through my head. So, I swallowed my words and reached out with my heart. I provided a safe haven. I listened. I spoiled. I let her stay up until midnight watching her favorite TV show from bed, safely tucked under the covers. She giggled with her Mimi. And, in the morning before we put on our tennis shoes and walked, I made her the most luxurious breakfast and served it to her in bed.
We girls are essentially the same, all of us containing a bit of the DNA of Eve, and Mother Mary. We could collectively change the world if we used our own unique talents, honored and respected the diversity of one another rather than striking out at each other in judgement, envy and fear. I am convinced we would begin to see a global shift in humanity. Women are an incredibly powerful source of all that is nurturing, good and wise.
Alex went home missing her sisters and family, refreshed from her mini sabbatical. I watched her leave with the feeling that I had just touched the face of God.... again.