Dear Mouse: I See YouPosted: October 21, 2013
You went to a birthday party today and your father’s report was… well, not great. It seems you spent most of the time being a barnacle on your daddy’s leg, despite the kind efforts of other kids to get you to play. In fact, your daddy told me you were pretty unkind to one of the kids, and that hurt my heart a bit.
This is your modus operandi: Somewhere, based on some mysterious something, the social part of you will just shut down. No manner of encouragement and familiarity can crack the shell. In fact, it usually makes it worse. It’ll take you hours to warm up when you get like this, and by then, the event is over. Then you’re sad with very little understanding of how your behavior played a role in your disappointing situation.
It isn’t always like this, mind you. Other times, you stride into situations with confidence, all grrrl power. At the park I’ve seen you strike up conversations with kids and I’d swear you are four years old going on ten. You’ll stand up to things you think are wrong, even when it is hard. When you started transitional kindergarten with 24 kids in your class, you didn’t even blink.
But… in times when I least expect it, you have the hardest time, like today. You had two friends at that party you’ve known all your life (we, your parents, were all in the same birth class), and a bunch of the other kids were from that transitional kindergarten class. Why you just clam up for two hours, I have no idea.
You pretty much came out of the womb this way. You’ve always had an intense, absolutely mysterious way of regarding people. Some situations were just big ol’ fails. We never could really understand why, but it sure did stress us out.
“Hello, nice to meet you, oh, my baby seems terrified of you and won’t stop screaming until you leave. I love your shoes, goodbye!” It made for awesome small talk.
Then later when you were a toddler, there would be times (often) at the park when you wanted to do nothing but sit on a bench with me and stare at the other kids. For hours. I could tell you had interest in participating, but nothing could get you off that bench. Then you’d be broken-hearted that we had to leave, because you didn’t get a chance to play.
I’m sorry, sweetie.
You see, it appears that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I spent most of my life having these same inexplicable waves of shyness. Even right up until college, there would be times that I’d be in groups and not utter a word for hours. Then there were other times that I’d surprise even myself by being able to navigate a completely foreign social scene. I was never good at predicting which it would be. My mind’s eye could not see myself, couldn’t understand my own swirl of emotions.
The thing is, I was largely reformed by the time you came around. Mind you, I’m still not a super social butterfly. Still, I don’t get knots in my stomach at random times any longer, and I’m competent in most social situations (I’d like to think). Imagine my surprise upon realizing that there must be some kind of “random fits of shyness” gene, and I’d passed it to you!
I know how it feels to get all tongue-tied when you have so much to say. When you do manage words, sometimes they’re not the right ones. I know what it is like to feel knotted up without understanding why. You’re only coming up on five years old, but I can see what we share this trait, mother and daughter.
One day, when you’re convinced that I don’t understand you at all, when I couldn’t possibly know how you feel, I hope you’ll read this letter.
I know that we are not one and the same. You are an amalgamation of me, your father, and maybe some pixie dust. You are growing up on your own terms, in your own time. I’ll try never to presume anything about your path in life.
Yet, being your mother is like letting a little part of myself walk separately from me. You may be mixed up in a different cocktail of life, destined for a different future, but you’ll always feel like a part of me.
No matter where you end up in life, no matter how far away you get, I hope one day you’ll read this letter and know. Even when you can’t see yourself… I see you.