I try to protect my daughter’s privacy a little more here now. Part of it is that she’s getting older, but some of it is also that a few people who know us “in real life” are aware of my writing here. As I’ve learned from other pieces I’ve written, I cannot control the way things might be interpreted or used, so I try to be more careful when it comes to her life. One can never, ever get the full picture from just one essay or blog post, but some try to and then it leads to unfair assumptions and prejudices. It’s one thing for me to take that on, but I’m not willing to do that to her.
So without getting into the specifics, the other day she came to me after she’d been playing by herself for a while. Something was definitely on her mind, so I asked her what she was thinking about. Tears immediately flowed. She was feeling very alone about something (which she and I talked about) and wished she’d had a girl friend to talk about it with, not just me. She wanted someone to be comfortable with and not be judged. Don’t get me wrong. She has a few friends and classmates that she plays with regularly who are all equally sweet and kind children. But what she was looking for was a trustworthy confidant to share something very personal that she’s been thinking about a lot lately, and it is a topic that is certainly provocative for many.
After a long, long chat with her on the stairs, she seemed to perk up a bit. She seems hopeful that the specific kind of friend she is seeking is out there, and one day they will cross paths. That is the best kind of outcome for a parent when you know you can’t fix things for them, and that they have to find their way. You have to at least guide them to the path of hope, but then they must take the journey. She went on to play, almost as if nothing had been wrong to begin with. That’s what makes children so awesome–their ability to let go, move on, and live in optimism.
But after she left my side, I was struck with how inept I feel about talking about the subject of friendships with her, primarily because I have struggled for so long to find the particular kind of depth that I know she seeks (at least in her seven year old way). In a nutshell, I don’t have that in the way that I’d like. I am (I think) friendly and have the tools to teach her those kind of social skills. I have friends, yes, even a few good friends. But a deep, soul bearing confidant (that is not my husband)? No. I do not.
This year in particular that has weighed me down quite a bit. In fact, I wrote a deeply cathartic and personal, if not shame inducing, piece about it all just weeks after I turned 40 earlier this year (it was declined for publication–and hence my post from last week about what to do with those kinds of pieces; I’ve shared that piece with two people but I am not sure about anyone else at this point). In a word, I feel like a fraud. I feel alone and lonely much of the time because of this, and, as a result, I am not entirely convinced that that kind of friendship is actually achievable for every single person. So when she comes to me, I feel like I’m selling her a bill of goods. I wonder if that kind of friendship as an ideal—despite how much I’d like it—is one that I can adequately sell anymore. Yet, if I am her role model and teacher for so much of these things, am I supposed to fake it? I’m wondering. But sooner or later, she’s going to see the gaps in my own life that I am trying to help her fill in hers.
I realize that this might all sound hopeless and pathetic, but the truth is that this year has also been a year when I have mostly made peace with what is my life in this particular regard. And that, I hope, is the other message that I can ultimately convey to her: that your solitude can be its own source of strength too.
Copyright (c) 2014 Kristen M. Ploetz
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