On a recent family vacation with my entire family of in-laws, I found myself in a situation that brought up a huge childhood fear. The fear of being left out and shamed for my choice to go against the grain.
We spent the week out in the country hiking, kayaking, fishing, and enjoying the fresh mountain air. None of these activities are my child’s passion but she was going with the flow and being remarkably engaged.
The weather had been amazingly beautiful and we were only faced with one rainy day. The group decided this would be a movie day. I was thrilled for my teen cinephile. She loves film! We were finally going to be stepping into her world for a change.
As soon as she heard the news her face lit up.
She was so excited to finally have a chance for the much awaited viewing of Barbie. She was amped! Stoked! Hyped! It’s hard to find a word that describes just how she felt about this opportunity to shift gears and see a film she felt would go down in herstory.
Of course I was 100% team Barbie with her. But the rest of our 18 person crew was determined to see Indiana Jones.
It was decided that there would be two groups one for each movie. We tried to recruit some more family members to join us at the Barbie movie but it did not get any enthusiastic responses. Her cousins were lukewarm at best.
I was crushed.
Watching and feeling the rejection started me on a downward spiral. I was flooded with the memories of all the times I had been rejected in my childhood (and adulthood). My mind and body were spinning.
As I brought awareness to my reaction I knew I needed to remove myself from the situation to cool down. I spent some time in my room alone, breathing, shaking, rationalizing. But I could still feel the emotions running high. I was so worried for my daughter. In my reactive state I was assuming that she would be feeling the same way as me. Heartbroken and alone.
When I had calmed myself enough to approach her, I tenderly asked if she was ok. “Hey, are you ok?” I asked sheepishly.
She looked at me like I was a three headed dog, confused and mystified.
Why on earth would I be asking her if she was ok? What could have happened to merit a “check-in” from her mom? How long did she have to tolerate me standing there looking at her with sympathy and concern?
“I’m good,” she said with utter confidence.
Not the “I’m good” adults use to answer aloofly when replying to “Hi, how are you?” Adults use this phrase when they probably aren’t good but don’t really want to get into it while standing in the grocery line. She responded with the Gen Z “I’m good”, which means “I don’t need anything”, “I’m ready to get out of this conversation quickly because you are a hot mess”, or simply “I’m satisfied, alive, and fully feeling myself”.
Could she really be feeling good after such a complete train-wreck? Is it possible that preparing to go to the movies alone with her mom when everyone else was going to see a different movie was not impacting her concept of self worth?
I was stopped in my tracks. I took a minute to pan the camera out and fully take in her experience. Fully untangle her experience from mine.
My 17 year old, introvert, movie fanatic daughter has such a strong sense of self that she is able to stand in her choice to go against the grain without feeling ashamed, abandoned, or rejected. WOW!
Could this be real? I could still feel the uncertainty in myself, but as I observed her feeling excited and confident, the easier I could breath. Watching her prepare for the movies, preparing to step away from the group and follow her desires, I began to see that I raised a strong, independent, self assured young woman.
For many years I have been practicing stepping back, panning the camera out to see the big picture. For many years I have practiced settling my nervous system to allow space for her authentic feelings. For many years I have been adjusting my emotional reactions, caring for myself and my past wounds, in order to parent from a place of conscious action. For many years I have been challenging the status quo of parenting stepping away from the way I was parented to blaze a new path.
This time my reaction snuck up on me like a stealth ninja. I didn’t see it coming and I was deep in my old trauma before I could even prepare myself for it. But my daughter was not shaken. She stayed firm in her unique passions and personal opinions. Her cousins’ dismissal of the Barbie movie did not sway her. My insecurity did not impact her.
There are times when it feels uncomfortable to go against the grain by parenting in a new way. I often feel isolated or alone in my conviction to challenge the conventional expectations society has placed on children.
After writing this story I can now see that I have modeled what it looks like to step into your power as a woman. It has been a slow and gradual process and it is still unfolding. But as I create more space for my child to become her true self I have also created space for me to do the same.
And when the two of us sat down at the theater to watch Barbie we turned to look at each other with an inner knowing. Laughing and crying and cringing and cheering and sharing all the emotions together ❤