One thing about having three kids is that you get to know your kids in terms of the others. You see the way they interact with one another, the way they handle situations differently than their siblings, the differing ways they communicate. You start thinking in terms of "X is more sensitive than Y" or "Y has a shorter temper than X." And even though it sounds paradoxical, this kind of parenting helps you to tailor your parenting to fit the needs of each individual child--you know what methods work for one and are too much for another because you can see the way the whole thing works. I try to spend as much time as possible just being solo with one kid or another, but a lot of times those times feel "functional"--I am taking them somewhere or another, they are just left at home with me while the other does something else, that kind of thing.
Being around Gabby this last weekend showed me how much she has changed. Last school year, I have to say, was a bit of a struggle for us. Gabby was moody, surly, and very nearly overcome with drama at school. It was hard to talk to her at all, much less have any type of meaningful conversation. Any time we had together was a lot of me giving her stern talks about one thing or another. This year she has been phenomenally better--we have all noticed just how much easier daily life is. The best thing is, though, that she really seems to be getting a handle on "who" she is and what she wants her life to be like. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about being a parent so far--seeing this kind of knowledge bloom in a child and watching what she does with it.
Watching her this weekend though, I realized one thing: Gabby is kickass. She is someone that had I known at her age, I would have been completely in awe of. For one thing, when I was in seventh grade, I had no handle on what I was, what I wanted, or what I could be. I was an awkward kid with braces who did much, much better with books than with actual, living people. I had friends, but none that were into the same things as me. To remedy this, I mostly just tried to hide what I was really into, and to be honest, that is something I struggle with even now. Not Gabby. She likes what she likes, and doesn't really care what you think about that. She makes no bones about the fact that no one at her school understands her music, her jokes, the internet memes she is shameless in guffawing at. And she is ok with that. Why wouldn't she be?
Her fashion is also strictly her own. She has a closet full of t-shirts and skinny jeans, mostly all in bright colors. Where she goes crazily off the chain, though, is the accessories. For instance, today I sent her to school wearing a headband that had a Koosh ball attached to it and a pair of orange Dr. Seuss Chuck Taylors. She delights in getting up in the morning and putting together these things. While shopping on Saturday, I asked her if she knew anyone who dressed like her. She just gave me this look, this "God, MOM" look that I know very well because it is my look that I still give to my mom on the regular. And I'm glad she shot me that look too, because I was needed to be reminded that she was in fact mine, and not, say, the love child of Kathleen Hanna and Betsey Johnson.
I have racked my brain all weekend, wondering what I did to make her so awesome, so different from the buck-toothed girl hiding in her huge pants and ratty sweaters. And I don't know. I wish I did. I wish I could write it all here and give you all the secrets, or maybe write a book to be handed out in maternity wards: "How NOT To Have One of Those Kids From the Mall That You Hate." I think I just got really, exorbitantly lucky.
Or maybe it was the internet's doing. For once, THANKS AL GORE!