This year, I didn’t read everything I’ve ever written about you to see what’s changed. Instead, I just took a moment and thought about the changes I’ve noticed in you. These five changes jumped into my head.
They’re arranged in a fairly random order:
1. Your friendship tendencies have evolved (a bit.) For one, James is OUT. He changed, ran with girl-hating boys, and shut you out last year bit by bit until it was too much for you to forgive. This obviously hurt your feelings, but you were characteristically tough about it. You shrug and say things like “well…his loss.” You started this school year thinking you’d invite him to your birthday party anyway, even though he ignored you at school. Not so much anymore. Recently when we bumped into his family at a restaurant, far away from school, you two didn’t even look at each other. Awkward! Ellie is most definitely your best friend, officially, and I’ve seen you embrace her for who she is. You’re letting other kids in too: Maya G., your new friend Saniyah. I’m starting to think maybe you won’t always be a one-friend kid.
2. You’re more sensitive than you used to be. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous post, and it’s still true. You get angry at us a lot more…yell or go quiet, shut down, frustrated–and it happens with very little provocation. It’s important to note that this isn’t what you’re like all the time. Most of the time you’re happy, sweet, energetic, silly–then BAM! At least once a day, I’d say, you get pretty angry with us. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt, but we’re trying to get used to it, talk to you about it, make you aware of your temper as an IT, that is not you, but just something you suffer from on occasion. You always say “sorry” afterward. And then you go back to your silly self.
I’ve been looking at what’s triggering your temper and it seems to wrap around a few themes about feeling: 1. ignored/not heard 2. misunderstood. 3. judged/criticized. It’s not fair to say that this new sensitivity stops with your temper. While yes, you do have a temper you’re working on, you’re also not getting angry in a vacuum. In some ways, your sensitivity is colliding with a deepening awareness of our family dynamics. You’re also raising your own expectations of us and demanding we change our relationship with you commensurate to your evolving maturity. You just don’t know you’re doing that! As mom taught me years ago, it always takes a relationship to make a conflict and no one party owns 100% of a problem. So for my part, I’ve been trying hard lately to show you how important you are to me, give you my undivided attention whenever possible and expose my thought process to help you believe I was listening when I failed to understand you. I’ve been working harder to share my positive thoughts about you and try to ease up on some of the adult-like expectations we can place on you. When I pull it off, it definitely works. When I forget, I get…well…feedback!
3. You’re taking more pride in your intelligence/scholarship. I see you wearing more of an intellectual identity lately. It squeaks through in your mannerisms and word choices. You take more pride in your test scores. You advocated this year to be in the harder spelling group, even though you struggled at first. When Mr. Pollard openly wondered if you should go down a level, you fought to stay and proved you could do better. The Ari I used to know would have cared more about NOT being challenged, than pushing herself to excel.
4. This was the year your artwork started to blow me away. I think you might be really, really talented! You still mostly draw horses, but yesterday you drew your first peacock and it was just as good as your equine sketches! Plus, you draw every single day so you’re practicing like crazy. This year, I’ve been trying to drive home the importance of work and practice over talent. And I think it’s getting through to you. You’ve finally said you’re interested in (maybe) taking an art class. Victory! (Maybe.)
5. Your “identity” as a non-girly-girl is cementing and now you’re feeding it. It’s always been the case that you don’t identify as a “ballerina girl,” or a “girly girl,” as you call them these days. But you’re at a more tribal age now, when kids begin to sort into groups. You’ve proudly stepped into yours and privately shun the others. Before this year, for example, you would have still worn a dress if you felt like it. Now, you stop yourself from doing such a thing, because your conceptual “I” does not do such things. You have a story of you now and you’re beginning to strengthen that story and harden the lines around the edges of your identity. Totally normal. Are you still doing it? Probably! Some day, hopefully by the time you hit your thirties, you’ll begin to do the really scary work of taking a hammer to those barriers. That’s when you learn that you’re only as separate as you choose to be.
Happy New Year, Ari! As usual, your continued emergence has been a greater and greater blessing to us, and everyone you know. Welcome to 2016.