Blog Your Blessings: Rip Tide II in the Granite State
When my daughter and I related to my mother how we managed to swim our way to shore after being carried out by a rip tide, my daughter said, "I thought you were pushing me away."
"Your mother was pushing you in," my mother said to her before I could say a word. My mother knew, as a mother would, that of course I was doing all I could to get her to a safe place.
It's what you do.
That was a big moment for my daughter. She kept her cool, she swam the way I had taught her too, and she kept on. She grew with every wave that swept over her little face but did not take her down. She emerged from that water knowing she was strong.
She had her second rip tide moment of the summer this week in New Hampshire. Please God, she will emerge from it with self-confidence, poise, and the joy that comes from both.
On Wednesday we drove 4.5 hours from Connecticut to somewhere in the middle of the Granite State for five days of all-girl sleep-away camp. She was looking forward to being cabin mates with a girl she knew from last year--the daughter of a neighbor whose own daughter would be there, too. Last year she had been assigned a friend. This year she wanted the same one.
But the kid didn't come. And the kid didn't tell Adella she wasn't coming. So there was my shy and gentle daughter overwhelmed by the prospect of not knowing anybody in this vast sea of girls.
She cried in that quiet, inward way of hers as big tears fell from her eyes and splashed on the ground around her. She wanted to go home. She didn't want to be there. "Take me home, mom."
My heart broke for this kid, and then I heard my mother. "Why waste five days in this beautiful place over a kid who didn't even bother to tell you she wasn't coming?" It is hard to point out to a child that someone they think of as a friend doesn't care about their feelings, that the little stinker isn't a friend at all. How many times had my mother said that to me?
How many years of my own life had I endured friends who came my way because they chose to, because they told me they were my friends? Enduring my daughter's scowls and taking in her clear and pointed anger with me for pushing her away, I thought of a person who called herself my friend for years but who was about the meanest, most selfish person I had ever met. She had called herself my best friend; I had accepted her standard of "best" and endured her for, oh, 25 years before decided I was entitled to friends who were kind. While my daughter's situation was far less dramatic--she knew the girl only through camp a year ago--I didn't want her to get into a habit of letting the choices of others shape her life, her fun, her perception of herself.
I told her the week in New Hampshire was my gift to her so she could be herself, make friends and have fun. "It's for you to be you," I told her, and I added, "You might want to get your face off the floor because when you look all sad like that, people get the idea you want to be alone and they will leave you alone." And I heard my mother again: "If you want to have a good time, you will. If you don't, you won't. It's up to you." (Or was that dad?)
I stayed with her. When she went to the bathroom, I let her counselor know she was a shy kid but a sweet one and she needed encouragement. I did all I could to weave her into the conversation of the other girls who were there. Finally, another mom whose daughter was also nervous heard me talking about playing Rummy 500 with Adella and suggested my kid teach her kid how to play.
There it was: a way in for the shy girls. Before I knew it I was told for the second time I could go. The Evil Mother Who Said No even got a kiss and a hug.
So there it is. So far, so good. I guess Sunday I'll find out if she emerges from this rip tide a bit taller and more self-confident--or not. Here's hoping.