Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Head-Scratching Ponderables

A few things that have made me stop and wonder today:


  • The emails I get in my inbox from my state legislators asking me to chip in $3 to help pass a bill in the House. Example: my state's Democratic Senator, Patty Murray, whom I support wholeheartedly, managed to help craft a budget proposal that was recently passed in the Senate. This morning, I got an email soliciting money so they can get it passed in the House because they're anticipating a fight.  Where do those donations go? Am I buying the vocal support of a Senator with my $3? Would they not fight loudly and passionately for that budget anyway since they (presumably) believe in it?  Or am I paying for a a lobbyist's time to go pester a Congressperson to pass it?  What exactly is my money doing?  I doubt there's time to put together a media campaign with television and radio advertisements, so I'm confused here.  On top of that, I'm sick of being asked for "just $3 to show my support." I capitulated during the Presidential campaign, but now I just want the elected officials to sit down and do their damn jobs without expecting more money for them. They get paid. Do the right thing, already, and leave my inbox alone!
  • I was one of those people on Facebook who changed my profile picture to the equal sign that stands for marriage equality for all Americans.  I was happy to do it. Hell, I even spent ten minutes fiddling with the settings on my iPhone to make it happen because I didn't have my computer with me yesterday morning.  But I have to say, idealist that I am, I hope the multitudes of people who changed their profile pictures don't have any bearing on the outcome of the case.  Seriously.  I want the justices of the Supreme Court to do their jobs as well and decide the case on its merits.  I want them to listen to the logical arguments (not the frantic speculation of the Christian Coalition that the moral fabric of society will be torn irreparably if we allow gays to marry), discuss the issues, and render a LEGAL decision like they are supposed to.  I don't want them to poll Americans or look at their Facebook or Twitter feeds.  They are judges. The day we let public opinion influence their decisions is the day we might as well open the doors of the courthouse to lobbyists with their pockets stuffed full of cash.  
  • Eve and her class are attending WeDay today, a celebration of the many acts of philanthropy by school children around the world.  There are 15,000 students from all over the state of Washington attending this amazing event in an effort to learn from each other how to mobilize their own efforts to make the world a better place for us all.  There are corporate sponsors (of course) and actors and philanthropists presenting to drum up excitement and Jennifer Hudson was slated to perform. After two hours of amazing speeches by people who have made substantive change in their own way (including one man who came and told a harrowing story of his time as a child soldier in the Congo), Jennifer Hudson came on stage.  And sang "Night of Your Life."  I don't know about you, but I hadn't ever heard the song and I was confused.  Here are a few of the lyrics:
...My love ain't easy
You gon' have to put in some work
You can't buy me a drink, thinking I'mma fall for your flirt
You gotta make it right
If you wanna go spend some time
You gotta raise the bar tonight...
...So now love me, baby treat me rightAnd we'll be riding it from morning til midnightIf you love me til the end of timeThen I will promise you the night of your life...
I could have ya, if I wanted toDown on one knee, in front of me where them bells ringingI could claim ya, be your saviorWrap your heart inside of these arms and you'll never leaveI could have your hands tied, round my body all up on meBoy you'll be stuck to me, if I wanted with no releaseI'll have you begging, wishing now I give a piece
 So, tell me, what does that have to do with philanthropy? Giving back to your community? Changing the world?  Seriously? She sang the song, and then walked off stage. Not a word about this room full of students who had to earn tickets to this event by engaging in fundraising efforts for charitable organizations, by working for a cause. And she sings a song about hooking up with a guy in a bar.  I'm glad she asked to be treated right, but the message seems a little cloudy to me.  I can only hope that it gets drowned out by the other, more meaningful ones of the day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Concentric Bubbles

I am regularly reminded of the bubble(s) in which I live.  The mostly-liberal-Democrat bubble of my town and neighborhood (and daughters' school). The I-can-pay-my-bills-and-have-money-left-to-eat bubble. The our-family-has-health-insurance bubble.  I could go on, but you get the gist.  We are blessed, privileged, incredibly lucky.  I drive and walk past homeless people almost daily. I live in a country where running water and electricity are the norm.  I am aware of how comfortable my life is and am grateful for it every day, all the while doing what I can to make the lives of others more comfortable as well.

But every now and then I am really struck by the possibility that there are other bubbles out there smaller than mine.  I tend to ignore the news of mega-millionaires (I couldn't pick a Kardashian out of a line-up and most Hollywood insiders could stroll right past me without prompting a glance) and actively discard news reports of egregiously selfish behavior on the part of filthy rich corporations because they turn my stomach.  And then there are stories like this one on NPR that make me feel not that I live in a bubble, but in some alternate universe.

The abbreviated version is this:  Major pharmaceutical companies have apparently devised new methods to hold the exclusive patents on their drugs just a little longer than the law allows.  You see, when the original patent expires and other drug manufacturers are allowed to begin making generic forms of medication they often charge up to 85% less than the original price of the drug. Nobody in their right mind (especially the incredibly bottom-line-concerned insurance industry) would pay for the original drug at that point, so the profits for a single drug can go down significantly in one year.  That obviously gives these enormously rich pharmaceutical companies incentives to disallow generics.

Enter the "reverse settlement" or "pay to delay" tactic.  These companies often apply for new patents, changing perhaps the source of an ingredient or some other minor tweak by way of reason, and when the generic-manufacturers sue, they are offered a gross amount of money to go away for several more years, thus enabling the original company to continue to rake in piles and piles of money.

From whom? The insurance companies and hospitals.  Which means, ultimately, consumers. Those who are paying the hospital and insurance bills.

In one case, the settlement for a single drug was $42 million per year for 15 years. If it was worth that much to the pharmaceutical company, how much do you think they are profiting from that one drug in a year?  On the backs of the American public?

I understand that these companies have to pay for their R&D and that they deserve to be making more money for discovering these drugs, but there has to be a better way. And there also has to be a middle ground somewhere.  Is there such a thing as a company making too much profit?  Call me an evil anti-Capitalist, but I say yes. Especially when it is the American public who is forced to give these companies their hard-earned money, in many cases, far beyond what the drug is actually worth, because they need the medication to survive.  Especially after most of these companies have already utilized taxpayers' money to create these drugs in the form of tax breaks.

Other countries (Canada, European Union countries) have figured out how to pluck these pharmaceutical companies out of their pockets and put them in their place and the world hasn't stopped spinning yet. Here's hoping the US Supreme Court will follow suit.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Do We Have to Call It 'Sex Ed?'

I have written about Sex Ed before, both its importance and the fact that I believe we are doing families and students a disservice by calling it that.

Last week the girls' school held a combined Parent/Student Education night for 7th and 8th graders and their families, led by one of the science teachers and the health/nutrition/fitness teacher.  The idea was to talk to the group as a whole to begin with, then break them up into two groups (Students and Parents) to talk for a bit and formulate a list of questions for the other group, and finally bring them all back together to discuss some of the issues.  Eve was greatly relieved that Bubba was out of town and we were unable to join the discussion at school but I was, frankly, quite disappointed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't rub my hands together in gleeful anticipation of talking to my daughters about their sexuality, especially given the fact that they both seem patently uncomfortable with the subject.  I was disappointed because, like most things, I believe that the more baby steps we can take, the easier it will get over time.  I am not a proponent of the 'shock' therapy that one educator I know engages in (among other tactics, she has the girls shout the word, "penis!" at the top of their lungs repeatedly to desensitize them to it).  I'm not against it, but it simply isn't my style.

I was very happy to see an email from one of the instructors a few days after the program with an attached document containing both the student-generated and parent-generated lists of questions from that evening.  I forwarded it on to Eve and asked her to pick three questions she wanted to ask me. I would do the same and after dinner we headed out to take a walk.  She wasn't thrilled.

The list of questions ranged from things like "Do you trust me?" and "What kind of boyfriend do you want me to have?" to the distinctly more squirm-worthy ones such as "How old were you when you first had sex?" and "What is molestation?" and "Does it smell when you 'do it'?"  Predictably, Eve chose three pretty tame ones.  I let her start, but said we would alternate who asked and who answered.

I tend to give thesis-length answers, but I tried to be as concise as possible so she would remain interested and engaged in the conversation and it was fairly genial.  My first two questions were softballs, but the last one was more pointed.  Of course, when we were within a block of home, the real meat of the discussion came up and we were able to talk about date rape and how to determine if other people are trustworthy in certain situations.  We extended our stroll a bit to accommodate.

As we headed across the deck for the back door, I told her that I'd like us to do this twice a month or so until we've exhausted the questions on both lists.

"Mom! Some of those questions....I don't want to do this all the time! Why do we have to?"

I know she's embarrassed.  I know she thinks she knows more than she does.  I know she would probably rather get this information from her friends - despite the fact that they don't know as much as they think they do, either.  But what I'm looking for here is to establish a rapport between us that doesn't treat her sexuality as uncomfortable or shameful.  I don't want to know details of her consensual experimentations with boys (when she finally has them, hopefully at a developmentally appropriate time) and I have no intention of sharing intimate details of my sex life with her. We aren't BFFs. But I do want to make sure that if she ever has a question about whether or not it's the right time for her to start experimenting or how to obtain reliable birth control or if she needs to tell me something difficult that she isn't proud of, that she feels comfortable coming to me because we have proven ourselves able to talk about it calmly and with respect for each other.

So many of the questions on those lists had more to do with figuring out your own values and understanding your own boundaries and comfort zones than they did with anything else.  It is precisely for this reason that I think calling the classes "Sex Ed" unnecessarily creates the illusion that the material is all about intercourse and other intimate sex acts.  In my experience, it is so much more about knowing the mechanics of your own body, learning about how hormonal changes affect different aspects of your life, and figuring out how to make good choices that fit within your own personal comfort level.  Imagine if everyone were able to access information about how to take care of themselves in every aspect - physically, emotionally, spiritually - and to practice thinking critically about why certain choices were better or worse than others.  Don't we want that for all our children? Spouses?  Parents? And just like with any other subject, additional perspectives can only add to understanding which is why it is important to me that my girls are able to discuss the material with me, uncomfortable or not.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

...And the Livin' is Easy

I went walking with a friend (I'll call her Sunny) today who is feeling at a crossroads.  A year ago, she and her husband decided to simplify their lives a great deal by pulling their kids out of private schools, renting out their lovely home, and moving to a neighborhood where the public schools would serve her children well.

The kids have thrived and are thrilled with their new schools and their new friends and their new community.  It helps that they are within 15 minutes' drive from most of their old friends, but they don't seem to miss the old school or their old haunts in the least.

My friend's husband has since taken a new job which requires him to travel a great deal, but  he enjoys it and their marriage is strong enough to weather the time apart.

For now, Sunny is a stay-at-home mom, running her household, fixing her children healthy meals and available to help with homework.  She has interviewed for a few jobs in her field but nothing has stuck yet, since it is important to her to find one that has enough flexibility for her to remain present for her kids.

Last month, they decided that this experiment had worked well enough to warrant selling their house and it sold in five days.  They are renting a home in their new neighborhood until June and when I asked her, "What next?" she paused before admitting she didn't know.  They could move back east, closer to her family and her aging parents, or they could look for a house to buy in their new neighborhood.  I pushed a little more, probing to see what she wanted to do, and she began a verbal pro/con list of all the options.  Then she sat back in her chair and sighed.

"Honestly, Kari, - and the kids and I talk about this all the time - it's just so easy to be here. The kids are happy at school. They have friends. I don't have to work, for now, and their dad is happy with his job. The schools are great, the people are great, everything is within walking distance and life is just...easy."

Her face was a mixture of guilt and embarrassment as she admitted all of this to me.

I smiled and thought about what a lovely, lovely turn of events this is.  Why should life be hard?  Of course, it is sometimes, and for some people more than others, but often I think we make it too hard on ourselves without realizing that we are.  Their conscious decision a year ago was to simplify. And it seems that it worked.  Good for them.  I hope they revel in it. I hope that it feels safe and comforting.  I can't say that there was ever a time in my childhood that felt "easy," and I hope she knows what a gift she's giving to her kids by letting them experience that.  It won't last forever, but while it's here, I'll celebrate it with her.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Equanimity

My word of the day.

Equanimity.

But it didn't start out that way.  I awoke in the darkness for the fourth day in a row cursing Daylight Savings Time and the way it thrusts me back into a cycle of waking before the sun just when my mood has begun to lift.  I awoke to another day of Bubba in a different state altogether, missing his solid presence next to mine in bed and calculating the hours until the airplane's wheels touch down in this city with him inside.

And then I got to kiss my girls awake.  Both of them, teenage-years-be-damned.  I got to lean over Lola's warm, round cheeks that won't lose their plumpness for another year perhaps and brush my lips across them, murmuring to her that it is time to get up.  I headed upstairs to stumble over books and underwear strewn across Eve's floor, making my way to a precarious perch on the side of her bed and press my lips firmly on her forehead, oily with hormones and sleep.  I am so blessed.

We all did what we do, packing lunches, gathering homework and water bottles, steaming milk, walking the dog around the block, sliding in to the car for the short ride to school.

As soon as the girls shut the car doors, I flipped on NPR (they can't stand to listen to it in the morning whereas I consider it breakfast) and heard that a Senate committee has approved an assault weapons ban that will now head to a full vote.  I listened to a story about the rape case in Ohio and another about the scores of individuals perhaps wrongly convicted because of tainted or fabricated evidence in a Massachusetts lab.  And I wondered...

What if we are all doing the things we are supposed to be doing right now?
What if humanity is pushing along at precisely the pace it needs to be?

I don't mean to say that there isn't injustice or incredible suffering in the world for so many people.
I don't mean to imply that I don't care about all of it.

But when I look around I see so much beauty and love. I truly feel an emergence of a better place, better working conditions for so many, more equality for individuals who have historically been disenfranchised, more awareness of our collective connection to each other.  And we couldn't have that without all that has gone before.  We can only work at a certain pace to effect change and I believe that there is a building of energy and will like a tide coming in to sweep the beach. And just like a tide, it will retreat and build again and again.

I see people all over working to make their own lives better and to improve the lives of others and I am buoyed.  It is only by accepting the place where we find ourselves that we can hope to move forward.  Alicia wrote on her blog about some of the real challenges she faces in her everyday life with a special needs daughter, and she wrote about it with equanimity.  She wasn't railing against her daughter or whatever "god" or "fate" set her up to have the unique behaviors she has, she was simply accepting, sitting back and looking at her own life with clear eyes.  I know so many other parents who do that every day - ElizabethCarrieMichelle.  They absolutely have to marshal their strength to fight for things from time to time. They are all amazing advocates for their children and tremendously committed to finding resources and pushing for change and I am in awe of them all.  But they can't be effective unless they first understand who they are fighting for. And that takes equanimity.  The ability to look at your life for what it is and find the beauty mixed in with the difficulty. The ability to seek the eye of the tornado and sit there while all swirls around you, knowing that it simply can't be any different than it is right now, but it will most certainly be different over time.

Today I am finding solace and peace in knowing that the world is what it is right now because that's where it is supposed to be.  Progress comes on the heels of many feet marching together for the long haul, but we can't walk if we don't recognize the ground we're standing on.

Equanimity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

James Holmes Trial, Part 2

Shooter to be Drugged for Interview

That was the headline in yesterday's NPR feed that jerked my eyes back up, even as my fingers continued scrolling down.

In their attempt to decide how James Holmes, the man who shot moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado at the movie premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, ought to be tried, it seems prosecutors are getting impatient.  While his defense team tries to figure out whether or not he should plead insanity, the prosecutors allege that they have "waited long enough."  The judge decreed that, should Holmes choose to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, he may well be forced to undergo an interview to determine his fitness to stand trial under the influence of "medically appropriate" drugs administered by the court.

Civil rights notwithstanding (I suspect the ACLU would have something to say about this course of action), what exactly is it that they are hoping to accomplish?  Does anyone really believe that James Holmes could have entered a public place armed to the teeth with weapons and start shooting if he were "sane?"  Does anyone do that?

He may have preplanned the assault (indeed, he had to in order to collect the weapons and ammunition and obtain the gas mask and bullet proof vest he wore during the attack).  But does that mean he was sane when he did it?  He may have thought about ways to exit the theater without getting caught, but does that necessarily mean he was in his "right mind?"  I know that there is a narrow legal definition of insanity that we use in our court system and I realize that it hinges on premeditation and whether or not the actor fully comprehended the consequences of their actions. I know that, legally, someone has to know the difference between Right and Wrong. But aren't we missing the point here?

Say Holmes is given a "truth serum" for his interview (something like sodium pentothol or sodium amytal which are designed to lower inhibitions and elicit more honest answers).  If his mind is capable of confusing a violent act such as the one he committed with something that will ultimately make anyone's life better, is him telling the "truth" about it going to clear things up?  Or is it likely that what will emerge is simply a magnified version of Holmes himself, presumably muddled and angry?

And while the employees of the legal system run around trying to determine competence and legal definitions of insanity in some effort to dispense "justice," what is really happening?  The victims of the shooting are mourning - some of them mourning the loss of loved ones and others mourning the loss of their own physical health.  Many are struggling to come to terms with the trauma they experienced and working to build lives where they feel safe and secure again.  They are desperate to find ways to pay for the expensive medical care and rehabilitation they received as a result of Holmes' attack, and whether or not he is found guilty, whether he is considered insane or not makes not one bit of tangible difference.

What if our limited resources were utilized to help everyone in this case in ways that will actually make their lives better?  I can't know what it will take to help any one of them in their own lives, but I bet they do.  Working to come to terms with what has happened to them as well as finding ways to facilitate their physical and, in some cases, financial recovery would seem a much more humane, more just purpose than a prolonged series of trial motions and interviews and legal wrangling.

As I wrote in this post on restorative justice, I do believe that Holmes (and anyone who commits a crime) needs to be held accountable for his actions, experience consequences accordant with his acts.  At this point, though, I question whether that is even possible.  Wouldn't it make more sense to acknowledge his suffering (I don't care that I haven't met him or read accounts of his 'mental state,' anyone who and mows down their fellow human beings with assault weapons is suffering) and work with him to increase his mental functioning? Not simply so that he can be tried, but so that he can have some shot at truly understanding his crime?  Wouldn't it be more satisfying to know that he could comprehend the effects of his shooting rampage and begin to atone for it? Wouldn't it be more humane to give him a chance to spend his life doing something productive instead of leaving him trapped in a tormented brain and a prison cell for the rest of his life?  And wouldn't it be more humane and productive for us to direct some of those resources that might go into a trial toward the victims' rebuilding of their own lives?  Restorative justice.  Restoration. Putting things back as best we can.

I don't see how the continued debate over whether Holmes was "sane" or not is helping anyone to move forward or heal from the horrific events of last July.  We can dissect this man's likely thoughts or motives or brain patterns for months to come and still not achieve anything that resembles healing for this community.  By the time a trial is concluded, if it can be, we will have only succeeded in keeping that wound open and raw for longer than it deserved to be.  Our focus must be on assessing the needs of the entire community and addressing them, Holmes included.

Monday, March 11, 2013

When it's a Waste of Time (and Energy) to Comment

I have been on a bit of an activist rampage lately in my own head.  Last week, Eve's social studies teacher assigned them the 14-page "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" written by Martin Luther King, Jr. and she encouraged parents to read it as well so they could discuss it with their children.  Despite the fact that I figured the chances of Eve wanting to hang out and have a philosophical discussion with me about her homework were about 1/infinity, I printed out all 14 pages and sat down with a highlighter.

By the time I was done reading, I had three pages of notes and I felt like the top of my head was afire.  I could nearly hear the synapses in my brain shooting across from one cell to the next, making connections between what King was writing about and so many other unjust laws that exist today.  Regardless of Eve's decision to talk with me about it or not, I vowed to put my thoughts into a coherent essay soon and try to submit it for publication somewhere.

Fresh from the revelations of this amazing piece of writing by MLK, Jr. I went to the premiere of the documentary Girl Rising with a friend.  Eve and Lola are going to see it next week with their classmates and I was curious to see whether it would prove relevant to them.  I was impressed.  The film tells the stories of nine girls around the world who face incredible difficulties accessing education but persevere and manage to find a way to make it happen.  Woven between the narratives of their lives are astonishing statistics about the way education impacts the lives of women and girls (and thus, the entire human race and perhaps the planet) and I walked out of that theater on fire again, wanting to find a way to keep the momentum of this amazing story going.

This morning after dropping the girls at school, I sat and meditated the best I could with all the noise inside my own brain, forced myself to take the dog on a long walk to compose a writing plan for the day, and finally sat down to start working.

The first thing I did was check my Facebook feed which is, unsurprisingly, filled with information from organizations like Everyday FeminismThe International Planned Parenthood FoundationA Mighty Girl, etc.  Miss Representation had a link to an article in Time Magazine where Sheryl Sandberg was defending Melissa Mayer's new maternity leave policies and the discontinuation of telecommuting at Yahoo.  The quote they shared was this,
"The more women stick up for one another, the better. Sadly this doesn’t always happen. And it seems to happen even less when women voice a position that involves a gender related issue. The attacks on Marissa for her maternity leave plans came almost entirely from other women. This has certainly been my experience too. Everyone loves a fight–and they really love a cat fight." Sheryl Sandberg

I clicked through the link to the story, read it, and went back to read the comments on the Facebook page.  After the third comment, I realized I could feel subtle changes in my body - quickening pulse, tightening muscles in my shoulders and hands, shallower breaths - and I moved my hands to the keyboard of my laptop in preparation for response.

And then I sat back.  I took a deep breath and wondered how it would feel to simply be an observer in this case.  I wondered what would happen if I made a conscious choice not to add my comments to a dialogue with people I didn't know.  Having commented on issues similar to this in this way before, I know that what I end up with is unsatisfying.  Rarely does anyone respond directly to my opinion (and if they do, I only know because I take the time to go back and check the FB page every once in a while), and I have no way of knowing how many people have actually read my comment.  I know that when I see a polarizing conversation on Facebook that has hundreds (or even dozens) of comments, I tend to skim through a few and then get bored unless the commenters are people I know personally.  I have already made up my mind on most of the issues and it does me no good to read what everyone else thinks, especially if it is only inflaming my need to respond.

This one time I experimented with reading each and every comment, noting the opinions of the responders and taking a moment to think about them all.  Without the intent to add my own two cents.  It was strangely freeing.  It was a much-needed reminder that I don't have to react to every conversation that occurs around me, even if it is within the context of something that I truly care about.  My voice was not likely to make a damn bit of difference and to get sucked in to that issue would only have taken time away from other things I find more compelling and important.  It is so easy to think that just because I can comment easily, I ought to, that this is somehow a test of wills and adding my voice might tip the balance.  When I sat back and thought about what it would look like for me to type up a comment and hit enter, it felt more like throwing a pebble into a black hole than adding a brick to a much-needed wall.  I wonder how much time I have devoted to engaging in social media wars of words that are ultimately inconsequential. I suspect a lot.  Perhaps I can turn my attention to communities with whom I can have actual conversations that exchange ideas and may lead to something real as opposed to driving traffic to a particular site or filling some web advertiser's pocket.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Why I Choose to Parent my Teen Conspicuously

Forain - The Tightrope Walker
Monday morning I went for a walk with two friends who are mothers.  As it often does, talk fairly quickly turned to our teenage daughters and the triumphs and challenges we are facing right now.  We took turns talking about and listening to each others' unique perspectives and it felt good to be in the company of others whose values are similar and who may have fresh ideas for looking at sticky situations.

I was struck by how incredibly important parents are to children as they go through the early teen years.   Despite the fact that Eve is more interested in spending hours alone in her room (well, not digitally 'alone,') and she maintains that she has her own ideas about everything and my opinions aren't always welcome, I know she is still looking to Bubba and me for a baseline.  She is in the throes of determining her own personality, her own values, and finding her unique path for the near future, and I have to respect that, but her frame of reference is us.  I can see her picking and choosing which pieces of me to absorb or eschew, shrinking away into her own space and crafting her world view from the bits and pieces she has decided are important.  She is watching the way that Bubba and I move through the world, how we react to lack of control, how we prioritize, how we act in community with others (or not).  We are the starting point from which she jumps and our role is so important in giving her something to either emulate or discard, something to react to.

One of my girlfriends was lamenting the fact that her teenager has such a negative view of her own life.  "She has clothes, food, a roof over her head. She doesn't have parents who scream at each other all the time or kick her out of the house. How hard could her life be?"  We all laughed in that way you laugh when you know you're all sitting in the same stew pot together.

We kicked around the notion that, in order to differentiate themselves and individuate (their most important developmental 'job' right now as teenagers), they have to craft some kind of backstory that justifies defiance, a pushing away. They have to have something to push off of in order to propel themselves out into the world with less fear and trepidation.  It is so much easier to push off when you're angry or defiant than it is when you're reluctant to leave.


There is such a strong temptation to take that "backstory" personally.  I have found myself more than once, mouth open, words tumbling out to justify or defend or belittle the "hardships" Eve has built up in her mind.  If she is listening, all I am doing is giving her ammunition in those moments.  When I'm feeling particularly disparaged by her, it is incredibly tempting to check out and let her spend hours alone in her room texting her friends, not invite her to play a game with the family or walk the dog with me or sit and do her homework in the kitchen while I make dinner.  

And then I remember what it was like to be a teenager who didn't have parents that were available.  I remember feeling adrift much of the time, as though I was making choices about who I would be in a vacuum and ultimately, wondering why it even mattered.  It is hard to deny or embrace something that isn't actually there.  In the moments when one of my parents was around, even if I felt they were being perfectly horrible, at least it gave me something to decide NOT to be, some solid ground on which to put my feet as I leapt in the opposite direction.

Even though I suspect Eve would say in a very brave voice that she doesn't "need" us as much anymore, I think that the things for which we are necessary are simply different than they were in the past.  I am entirely convinced that our presence as role models in her life, however quiet and unobtrusive it may be at times, is incredibly vital to her sense of who she is now and who she may become over time.  I don't expect or even want her to emulate either of us to the exclusion of her own burgeoning personality, but consistent availability to her, emotionally and physically, may just be the thing she needs in order to feel safe about trying on new personalities.  It may be both the bedrock and the safety net she needs to set her compass by.  


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