Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Motherhood of the Misguided Empath

In my lifetime, I have seen one and only one episode of Star Trek. (I think this is a good thing.) It’s the one called “The Empath.” It’s about some aliens that Capt. Kirk and the gang discover in their travels. Apparently, an Empath can heal people by taking on their pain. (Back off, Trekkies, I’m doing the best that I can.)

My friends, I have decided that I am an Empath. A maternal Empath, if you will.

I’ve talked, in the past, about how we mothers feel our kids’ pain more than they do. When they experience heartbreak, disappointment or sadness, we feel it ten-fold. In return, our kids think we can’t possibly understand what they’re going through. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Well, today, I figured it out. I’m nothing more than an Empath. A misguided Empath, because I have this bizarre notion that I can somehow fix my kids’ problems by feeling bad. It’s stupid and I can’t help it.

Today, my daughter was having a particularly challenging day. She was down and out. So down, that she couldn’t explain what she was down about. She takes after me in that way. Her gloom was palpable. Apparently, so was mine.

My husband tried to ask what was going on with me. I explained that it was because our daughter was bummed. He looked puzzled.

“I’m an Empath,” I said.

“Ahh. Star Trek reference. I get it,” he said. “That’s just one of the reasons that I love you.”

And that is why we have been married for nearly 24 years. We are both a little geeky, a little quirky and a little misguided in the notion that we have any control over the emotions of a teenage girl. (Well, at least one of us is.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Capable, Confident Daughters

My daughter and I have similar upbringings. We went to virtually the same type of grade school – small, parochial. We went to the same type of high school – small, Catholic, all-girl. (We have yet to see whether she’ll follow my path in college.)

Anyway, when I was in high school, in the mid-70s, (practically the middle ages), girls sure seemed different. Of course fashion was different, although I can’t help feel like we’re going through a bit of fashion déjà vu recently.

What I’m really getting at is that girls today are incredibly confident. I mean CONFIDENT. In fact, even for this middle-aged mom, they’re a little bit intimidating.

This past weekend, my sister and I went to my daughter’s school to watch her in the high school musical. As we sat in the theater, we watched the parade of girls march by, chatting and giggling. We both remarked how these high school girls look and sound so…old compared to when we were in school.

I know they’re not. They still can’t get up in the morning and they whine when they don’t like dinner and forget where they put their gym uniform and they burst into tears at the smallest things. But, at least on the outside, they seem so sure of themselves. Maybe it’s a façade, but I don’t remember looking or feeling that way AT ALL back in 1975.

Back then, I wasn’t even a dork. To me, the dorks were the kids who were smart and cared little about their appearance. But at least they had an agenda and a purpose.

No, I was sub-dork. I was so unbelievably unsure of myself that I could have easily ended up with the worst of the worst, in terms of friends. Thankfully, I didn’t, but I think it was only good fortune that I got out of there alive.

First of all there was hair. Since the beginning of time, hair has been such a huge part of a teenage girl's identity. I was in high school when curling irons were just barely invented. (Pre-internet, post-horse and buggy.) Nevertheless, they didn’t help me. I had ZERO clue how to make my hair look attractive. My hairstyling skills consisted of washing my hair. That’s it. That’s the list.

Today, girls have GREAT hair. They all seem to know how to make it look GREAT…all the time. Even when it’s unstyled and casually tossed up into a ponytail, it looks amazingly GREAT. How did they figure that out? Is it something in the water? No, I know! It’s programmed into their brain via the cell phones that are always stuck to their ears!

And their skin – it seems flawless. Sure, a few have acne, but nothing like the acne I had. Dermatology must have made leaps and bounds in the last 30+ years because I’m not seeing girls that were as splotchy and self-conscious as I used to be.

But the biggest difference is the way they talk to boys. First of all, they actually talk to them. I think I can recall a total of ten conversations I had with boys back in high school. And no, not because we didn’t have boys at our school. It was because I had no idea what to say. I had no concept of how to talk to boys – how to be friends with boys. To me, they were a different species and the conversations I had with my girl friends would never be of interest to guys. And even when I tried to talk to boys, I did it so badly and so AWKWARDLY, that it had disaster written all over it from the word go.

The best part is that girls today don’t feel like they have to have a boyfriend to be cool. When I was in high school, that was not the case. Finding a boy to like and to like us was a mission…an obsession. It’s one of my few regrets in life – that I wasted precious time on that. My saving grace was the fact that I developed lifelong friendships that I still treasure today.

In any case, I’m glad to see that things have changed. I’m happy that my daughter and her friends are capable and confident and possess way more self-esteem than I had back in high school. The important thing to know is that even though the girls of today look great, they feel even better about themselves on the inside. And for that, their moms are very, very thankful.