Why So Stifling?

I frequently hear friends and coworkers lament on the misery of high school. They tell me horror stories of pimples and awkwardness that make me cringe. Dances with no show dates, scary teachers, missed assignments, and no one to sit with in the cafeteria are what they remember most vividy.

I remember high school differently. It was fun! I wasn’t in the popular crowd, but always had classes with friends. We plotted it that way. We went to dances, plays and football games together.  When I  look back, that’s what stands out to me. The sleepovers and picnics and days at the lake with my crew.

I wished with all my heart that my children would experience the same sense of belonging and joy that I had in high school.  We signed them up for sports teams, sent them to summer camps and scheduled playdates galore to give them the opportunities to make the most of youth. You know-all the things listed in the suburban mommy handbook.

I wish I could tell you this strategy has been successful.  Only it hasn’t- atleast not for 16. I  suspect if you ask her , she will have more horror than heyday stories to tell.

She will be entering her junior year of high school in the fall. She is a quirky kid that loves all things band, Harry Potter, and loose leaf tea. Not one of those carefully choosen playdate pals have turned out to be friends. In fact, she doesn’t have any close friends on sports teams either.

Her “crew” is actually a ragtag sort of group that I don’t entirely approve of. There is a hidden gem or two, but mostly they could have been lifted right from my “associate with caution” list. You know the kids that are generally ok but have loose parenting and too much unsupervised time. I suspect that is part of the appeal.

She tells me these kids “get” her. She can watch musicals and talk Doctor Who with them. They are okay with her comic book stuff and come dressed up to her theme parties. I’m glad she has them even if they are not who I would have picked.

While these friends are available for movie dates on weekends and camping trips all summer, there is a distinct void in her day to day life. She is often in situations where she must go it alone. It is in these times that I notice the change. My boisterous and opinionated princess becomes meek, deferring to others when decisions are to be made. Usually bursting with enthusiasm about the latest thing, she casually shares ideas only when addressed.

Maybe it is shyness, I  worried…seven years ago. She has spent more hours with these girls than with her own parents since then. Surely shyness would have been left behind in the sweaty trenches of five mile runs, bloody soccer battles, or muddy softball drills. I don’t believe it was ever that at all. More like just a muting of personality- as if she has to turn her volume down.

16 is planning to attend a USA woman’s soccer game as a daddy daughter group event. Hubs pointed out a red, white and blue tutu as something that she would probably like to wear to the event. I agreed then immediately back pedaled when I  remembered it was a group event. She would want to wear it, but probably wouldn’t. 

Talking it over recently with a coworker,  she says she experiences the same thing. It’s a natural part of growing up. She says she often stifles her enthusiasm to overshare love for things. 

“Dont you ever do that?” She asked.  Hhhmmm. Do I?

I would have to say yes. I attribute it to the dreaded phrase “being appropriate “. My kids hate this admonition.  I pull it out for lots of reasons. Why we can’t  ballet twirl through the grocery store or wear those shorts to school. They chime back: a time and a place, the sure to follow second sentence to the lecture.

Perhaps this is her way of finding her own time and place to let her enthusiasm shine, but  I worry she will find less and less places to turn her volume up. Perhaps there should be more opportunities to twirl before she forgets how important twirling can be.

What do you think? Do you find yourself muting your own enthusiasm?


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