Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Raising girls

Okay, I know. Strange title for a mother of three boys. But I was thinking about girls last night as I was participating (musically) in the New Beginnings program for the teen girls at our church. I have this feeling that while I'm tearing my hair out day in and day out right now, I will thank my lucky stars in ten or fifteen years that I have boys and not teen girls: girls sharing a bathroom and fighting over clothes and riding the hormone roller-coaster and getting caught up in emotionally exhausting relationships.

I have been pondering for a couple of months now my own teen years. I always begin this exercise by telling myself that I must try and be a little easy on myself. After all, I heard a researcher once say that the part of the brain that is the ego swells massively during the teen years, and then abates again as you ease into your twenties. So scientifically speaking, teens are designed to be very self-centered. (I will try to remember this when my own children are teens!)

Nevertheless, I have been heartily saddened as I think about my own behaviour during my teen years. It seemed as if the world revolved around me. I thought I deserved what I wanted, and tried hard to get it, in spite of the consequences. I think I may have hurt some dear friends along the way. I shudder to think of the people I hardly knew whom I may have also hurt or offended. I know I can say that I wasn't consciously spiteful or mean, and never had any intention of behaving in such a way. It is only with the 20/20 vision of hindsight that I am able to see what the consequences of my selfish nature might have been.

Part of my sorrow, I will admit, comes from that deep desire to be liked by everyone. I think we all have this, no matter the exterior we profess. I think back on some friendships now faded with time and wish I could capture them back. We have all grown, matured, changed, from the self-focused teens we once were. 'Self-focused' seems a better term, because I don't want to forget the necessity of that stage. The teen years are the time when you carve out who you are, even though you don't see the results for another ten years. You spend much of the time trying to be what you think you want to be, or what others think you should be. You spend the rest of the time trying to reject what you think you should be, or what others want you to be. It really does create an imagery of an artist who carves his creations out of wood. The teen years are like the artist standing in front of a tree which he must rudely and harshly hack away at to fell his material. The blunt axe is his tool, and each whack at the trunk gouges deeper and deeper, leaving a terrible mess and a ghastly gash. It is only after he fells the tree that he can begin the finer work of carving, as you come out of the teen years and into your twenties. Even still it necessitates a deep gouge here and there to achieve the rudimentary shape. Now, as I enter my thirties, I feel as though I finally understand the artist's vision; and while the tree trunk is nothing more than a vague shape of its final product, at least now I only must endure the gentle shavings of the finer details.

Hmm. That was an unexpected path these thoughts meandered down. Such is the work of a writer. I can relate it all back to raising girls in the respect that I believe girls endure a much harsher time during their teens as they deal with the deep emotional relationships they form. Boys seem to understand that if they simply have it out one afternoon, they can forgive and forget tomorrow. Girls sure do have a rough time of it.

(On a side note - I am thoroughly enjoying this new world of boys, and think I have finally hit on a writing project I can stick with! After half a dozen failed story attempts over the past month or so, I completed the first good chunk of my new project last night...and boy am I ever excited about it! More to come another day, I promise.)

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