Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Dear Distracted Girl, (Epistolary Wednesday)

Dear Distracted Girl,

When you were little, I thought only your age was to blame on your restlessness and forgetfulness. I’ve been waiting all these years for you to grow out of “it”—an “it” I’ve had a hard time defining up until now. It’s that thing that happens when I talk to you and you don’t seem to hear me and I repeat myself and you don’t seem to hear me, again, as if you’re lost in your head and daydreaming about video games or beading or the clay sculptures you want to create as soon as you can get through your breakfast. Being inside your head is a good thing. I like to live in mine as well. It’s where I start the beginnings of essays and emails. It’s where I problem-solve financial and relational challenges. So, I wasn’t truly worried back then because you were pretty focused at school; you stayed on task; you told the disruptive kids where they could go be disruptive if they got in your space. Your second-grade teacher told me he wished he could discover the secret to your focus-in-the-classroom combined with your wildness-on-the-playground, put it in a book, and sell it. Imagine my relief.

But then third grade came around and those stupid test scores caught me by surprise. Oh, I know, it was your first year taking standardized tests and third graders shouldn’t be expected to have the hang of those straightaway. But it was other little things too—like your rushing through words without sounding them out and substituting something nonsensical just so you could say you read them. And now, added to language, it is the math—the mere mention or sight of a division sign and you lose yourself, as if fractions and decimals and negative numbers and operational signs are whirring inside the blender that is your head, just to torment you. And we sit at the kitchen table for a good ten minutes some days, before I can even convince you to calm down--before the tears are gone-for-the-moment--and lead you through a path of reasoning that you, inevitably, find crooked and laden with stumbling stones. It’s a big victory when you’re able to surmount those stones and climb the path after me.

I spent so much time feeling frustrated, like maybe you just didn’t want to do your homework or clean your room, like maybe you were just prioritizing fun and friends and creativity over the “first things first” that I’ve taught you since you were three. But I’m realizing now that it’s not mostly laziness or disobedience, but that you likely don’t notice the mess, Sweet Thing. You think, in all honesty, that you did clean your room, that you did empty your lunchbox—at least, it’s what you remember, or think you remember.

I don’t know how long this will go on, but I’m changing how I parent you. No more series of requests presented all at once—because you will remember the last one and forget the first two. On school mornings, I get your breakfast ready for you now so it’s at your place at the table—because it would take you half an hour to collect bread, jam, a knife and plate if you were instructed to do so. And we’re going to see someone in a few weeks—someone who might shed light for us on what’s happening inside that sparkling, thought-full mind of yours.

But let me just say, for the record, that I love your mind. I love your enthusiasm and your quick-to-burn excitement that does, inevitably cause you to focus on what’s-most-important-to-you even when the things-that-are-important-to-me fall by the wayside. Look at how you gather all the kid-piano books in the house and tap out songs you used to play in your lessons. Look how you’re teaching yourself "Ode to Joy" on the recorder, shuffling through the house like a marching-band-of-one. And last night, on your tenth birthday, I watched you in the audience at a choral concert, your eyes almost weepy over the sweetness of the girls’ voices, your phone poised in mid-air so you could record this little bit of auditory heaven for keeps. I could see you up there someday. I know you’ll be up there someday, singing like there’s nothing better than entering that kind of beauty. All in is what you are, Girl, to the things you care about the most. 

***Heather Weber is the author of Dear Boy,: An Epistolary Memoir, on sale now through Thursday for $.99 cents (Kindle Version.)

"Dear Boy, is a brilliant and unusual memoir of distance and absence--the absence of a beloved brother from his sister's life and the absence of healthy mothering that, over the years, drove brother and sister apart. Weber deftly shifts point of view so that, piece by piece, readers gather the sum of confusion and loss. Yet there is so much love and forgiveness in the narrator that, in a way, each character is redeemed. I'm moved by this life, this telling of it." --Fleda Brown, author of Driving with Dvorak.

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