Saturday, April 30, 2011

The same and different

I'm exhausted in a heap today.  E and I drove a couple of hours south yesterday for a rendezvous with her oldest friend and her mom (who is a great friend of mine).  And by oldest friend I mean a woman E first met when she was three weeks old.  Like twins, they learned to sit up, crawl (well, Chels did, E never did crawl--and a child psychologist who worked with Beve told him she wouldn't learn how to read because she'd missed that developmental step.  When he came home and told me that--she was about 2 already by then--I got down on the floor and tried to get her to crawl places.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  And you know what?  She was reading before she turned 4! Developmental stage missed or not!), feed themselves, run, etc. Well, the list is long.  We laughed today about the matching "Boo!" costumes I made for them the Halloween after they turned one.  They were adorable, and remarkably similar in those days.

One day, when E was 3 or so, I made her (oh the horror!) take a nap.  You have to understand that E stopped sleeping during nap time by the time she was 2 years old, but I continued to make her lie there quietly with a book or two.  It was good for her and good for me that she have a daily rest period.  But this particular day, for no particular reason, she wasn't her usual compliant self.  Maybe she had something going on that taking a nap seemed to be interrupting.  You know, all those important projects three-year-olds have.  I really can't remember.  But I had no mercy for her non-compliance.   I just picked her up and put her on her bed, told her to be quiet, then I closed the door.  A few minutes later, I heard her yelling. E yelling. E.  Now you must understand that she wasn't that kind of child.  Not loud, not recalcitrant or stubborn.  Bossy?  Absolutely.  Certain she knew more than every other child in the room how to do something, and told them so--of course.  But not loud, and not angry.  Except that day.  That day, she was jumping on her bed, yelling, "I hate my mama, I hate my mama."

I opened the door, looked at her and said, "Oh please.  You don't hate me, and you aren't going to start saying that you do."
"But Chels says it."
Ahh, I thought.  And E had taken notice.  Chels and her family are a loud, passionate bunch whose very presence in a room makes that room a party.  And the pendulum swings through all the emotions without a moment's warning.  It's a great place to visit, and I love them to pieces--all of them--but Chels and E, for all their similarities, are very different.  I knew it perfectly that day.  I could well imagine the emotion that would cause a three year old Chels to say such a thing to her mommy.  But not E.  Even angry, she wouldn't say it.  No, E--even at the worst of moments--tries to find ways to see things from another person's point of view.  Tries to let things go.

I've seen this clearly in my oldest child.  She doesn't hold a grudge, even when she's hurt--badly hurt--and (at least in my mind) justifiably so. Even when she wants to stand on her bed and say, "I hate you, Mama."  And even when I want to go to bat for her, like the quintessential stage mama.  But, you know what?  As it wasn't in her then, it still isn't.  And, thankfully, I could see it that day.  Knew it wasn't organic for her to speak negatively toward those she loved, even when she was upset (though there have been times when even I have wished she'd be a bit more honest about the pain she's felt in certain situations--like in high school when her basketball coach treated her poorly, to name one).  No, E's a balanced, calm personality.  Chels is loud and passionate and emotional and... maybe a bit more like me, come to think of it.

It was an interesting conversation at our lunch table about these young women and their similarities and differences.which made us speak of the universality of these things between people, how we must recognize at exactly the same time that we all are like E and Chels--very much alike, and completely different. I'm glad that E and Chels were alike as small children, but also (deeply) grateful that they were different. It's an important lesson for me.  In race, gender, and ways we divide ourselves, we can either make those differences be the last word or we can hold in one hand our differences and in our other, the similarities, and put those hands together. Together.  Hands together as the last word, hands together in prayer for those who are like us...and those who are different, knowing we each are both.

Yes, an important lesson.

Maybe for all of us.

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