Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nolie, Sad

Nolie had a bad day yesterday.  Or a bad afternoon, at least.  My guess is that school went okay--after lots of probing, I couldn't get her to identify anything bad that happened in class.  But after school, I think her blood sugar probably took a dump (thank you, stupid daylight savings time) and then she went to dance class, and because she missed the last two weeks (thank you snowstorm, thank you impetigo), she didn't know the moves.  She heard someone laugh at her messing something up, and it set her off.  She wouldn't talk on the way home.  She grunted and fussed.  She wouldn't eat dinner.  And the bad mood lasted until bedtime, when I crawled into bed with her to rub her back and tummy while she listened to music.  "The sadness won't last," I whispered to her.  "You'll feel better tomorrow."  She just rolled over and said, "I'd like to go to sleep now."

She's growing so fast.  Her face is getting longer, thinner.  I can feel her collarbones protrude now.  She's so much more independent.

Nolie's got big emotions, and lucky for us, they are usually happy ones.  She is incredibly expressive.  She laughs loud, rolling laughs.  She's empathetic and highly emotionally sensitive.  She loves to chat and tell stories and dance and move and be next to you.  She's perceptive, and genuinely interested in how you're feeling and what you're doing.  She needs a lot of positive feedback, and crumples at any negative feedback.  She's fastidious about what she wears, often changing her clothes several times before leaving the house, and she spends a lot of time on her hair (though it doesn't always look like it).  Girly! She's so loving, and needs so much love, affection, and approval.

Friends ask me if I see myself in my kids, and this is always a question I struggle with.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes.  Always.  Never.  These things that Nolie is blessed with and struggles with--big moods, attraction to drama, experiencing life so fully it's sometimes painful, hyper-attention to the reactions of others, total physicality, big caring, big self-focus--are so familiar to me.  Though I have a hard time recalling much of my childhood, I remember experiencing all of these things from a very young age.  And at the same time, I'm not Nolie.  She's having her very own experience here on the planet.  I can't know what she's thinking or how things are in her head.

I also have the same experience, identifying with Addie--the need for quiet, intense focus, introversion.  The desire to make others laugh.  The self-consciousness.  The inability to control my limbs.  Physical sensitivity.  Artistic expression.  Highly verbal.  Sweet.  Resilient.  Stubborn.  Struggling to find kindness.  Not caring what others think about her appearance.  Being a tomboy.  Totally immersed in the natural world.  An intense hold on people and objects.  Some opposites, in many ways, of the things Nolie is blessed with and struggles with.

So maybe it's not so much that our kids become us, or even take after us (though they may).  That's a whole lot to take on ourselves, and it denies them agency, free will, independence, self-expression.  We impact our kids, certainly, but they aren't necessarily doomed (or delighted) to replicate who we are.  Instead, maybe there is a suite of human experiences, and our kids go through those at different times and in different ways, according to their ages and personalities.  And we have intense body, emotional, and mental memories of going through those things ourselves, so we see it and think, "There.  She is like me," or "Aha.  She is definitely more like her father."  But maybe we're just remembering going through the world ourselves, and figuring it out, and we are noticing our children doing the same thing.  How they handle those experiences may be informed by personality, which perhaps they get from us.  But it's something else, too.  Their own individual experience with life.  So we just rub their backs and do our best to help them through the sadness, knowing they will fly through the good times on their own without our help.

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