Monday, 16 May 2016

Advice for a Young Me

Years ago, when randomly contemplating what advice I would give to a young me if I had the chance, I came to the conclusion that the only advice I could give would be, "Life is pain, sorry about that."

I applaud the It Gets Better project that exists to tell young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that the life they experience in highschool isn't the only life they'll be stuck with. Maybe I could give a young me that same advice. "You won't always feel the way you feel right now." But the truth is something more like, "These sensations will dull over time." Sort of a reason for hope, sort of a reason for cosmic horror.

But I think about how I'm raising my own daughter who, from appearances, is too much like me for her own good, and I realize that while I don't have any advice, I do have an opportunity to be something to her that simply wasn't there for me. Advice is useless, actual support isn't necessarily useless.

What I've been working on lately is accepting that she feels upset about things. I don't want her to enter a cycle of thinking she has to demonstrate her emotions more forcefully to be taken seriously.. I don't want her to feel like she can't undermine her position as an unhappy person by showing happiness. I don't want her to be forced by adults to justify her unhappiness with ever more extreme and undeniable rationalizations.

So, for example, on nights when she squirms and whines while being moisturized, instead of being frustrated that she won't cooperate, I tell her that I'm sorry that she needs to go through that every day and thank her for doing her best to cooperate even though she didn't like the feeling of the moisturizer today. I also remind her that on some days she does mind it and on other days she doesn't. Not as an argument for her to dismiss her feelings and cooperate more, but just as a plain observation. It does get better, even though it just gets worse again after that.

Since I've started doing this she has been far more still and cooperative than she was before. Many days I feel like such a bad parent that I wonder if I should really be able to have kids. Other days I feel like I might have done something right. That's considerably better than I thought I would be.

1 comment:

  1. I may steal that line for handling the catastrophically eczema'd child in my own life.

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