Good morning LTTH readers. This post is inspired by a young cousin I have, who reminds me so much of myself at her age that I smile with understanding, and at the same time ache for the painful lessons she’ll have to learn, as I did.
Over the past few years I have been making more trips up to visit her and her family. Her mother is one of the cousins I felt the closest to when I was a “misbehaved child,” even though she lived in another state almost my whole life. I’ve watched my young cousin grow from a baby who could scream so loud you were sure the house would fall down. Into a toddler who would fearlessly jump right into the deep end of the pool before she could even swim. Now, as she comes into teenage years I get a glimpse of the woman she will become.
In some ways she is quite unlike me (she’s much more intelligent and her ambitions lie farther than mine at her age). And in other ways, she reminds me exactly like I was…and I have a special affinity to her because of the loneliness I remember feeling when I was her age.
She is a perfectionist, and her frustration with her small flaws leads her to act out on her peers when they simply want to tell her what a great job she did. She feels emotions so deeply and with such passion that she becomes unable to articulate her thoughts, which also leads to loud outbursts. She’s bright, she’s bubbly, with a heart that feels everything and so to cope with the inflow of emotions…builds a wall against them and shuts them out. She has a love for life and a need for adventure that I’m in awe of her ideas and talents on a regular basis.
However, if she doesn’t learn to temper her passions, if she realizes too late that showing vulnerability to others isn’t a weakness, if she isn’t willing to ask for and admit she needs love and acceptance as much as the next person…she will learn ALL the hard lessons that I had to…and for that…I worry.
The funny thing is, I was exactly like that, and part of the reason I am so close to her Mom is that she was one of three cousins who didn’t look at me with horror when I used to throw my fits of passion. Who didn’t tell me what a bad person I was and that I would never be liked or succeed because I was so outlandish and needed constant stimuli. And here my cousin is…many years later…with a child who has all these traits.
Though I’m not her Mother I still worry about her on a daily basis. How was her day? Did someone hurt her feelings? Was she kind and understanding to her younger brother who idolizes her? There are so many lessons that she’ll have to learn, so many years of feeling alone and misunderstood if she doesn’t learn the lessons I learned in my late 20s…and I wonder if there is anything I can do to help teach her while she is young…to help avoid this future.
So since I’ve never been a mother before, I reach out to the LTTH community and ask for your help and advice. How do I help guide her along her path, and steer her towards self-awareness before she wanders off so far down that same lonely path that it takes years to get back on course? How do I allow her the room to grow as she needs to when I see her start down the road that held so much pain for me as a teenager? And how do I show her how much I understand, empathize and love her for exactly who she is…without her feeling I’m going overboard and not understanding where it’s coming from?