A couple of days ago during a car ride, Violet said to me, out of the blue, “I can’t decide whether I want to be cool or dorky.”
This is a delicate parenting moment–you want to find out what’s going on in their little heads, you want to steer them in the right direction (dorky, duh!), you want to keep your tone light and non-judging so that you can have a chance of achieving at least one of these objectives.
So we initiate a little conversation about what’s cool and what’s dorky.
What makes Violet potentially cool is her interest in playing electric guitar. What makes her potentially dorky is that she still “half-likes” princesses. I imagine there are several other half-formed images in her mind along these lines, and perhaps a few fully formed images that she does not care to share with her mother just now. I was just grateful to find out this much.
We talk about the possibility of being cool and dorky at the same time. I try to get across the idea that the people who seem cool are the ones who do what they like regardless of whether someone else might think it’s dorky. It doesn’t take long to realize how parental and unconvincing this sounds, but I say it anyway. It may lodge somewhere in there and reappear at a crucial moment.
Violet has always been exquistely self-conscious, a condition I am quite familiar with, and one that I found rather challenging as a child myself. Criticism is crushing to her, of course, but even praise can make her very uncomfortable. Like a lot of creative types, she has those competing drives to perform and to hide the very things about her that make her unique. To repeat a common theme, she was awfully young when it was clear to her that she was very different from her preschool peers, and this seemed to set her wondering about her place in the world, her role, and how to play roles. Being a girl only compounds this.
Like an anthropologist, she has always watched, and still watches, peoples’ interests, mannerisms, speech, and behaviors very closely. I have enjoyed this trait when it appears in her writing and drawing, with her great eye for those telling details. She can convey a lot of meaning with a particular slant of the eyebrow or attitude of the body in her drawings, especially. But I enjoy it less when I see it in her own “self-fashioning”; those times, like during this car ride, I take a deep breath, say a silent prayer of gratitude for homeschool, and trust her (and us!) to explore, experiment, and still (please God!) turn out OK.
Smart women unite!