Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Children’

Brave New World

Some role changes in life are dramatic, expected, and planned for. Many people work an entire year on a wedding – and hopefully even longer getting to know themselves and/or their partner – before actually claiming the title of “spouse.” People get 9 months – or longer, if adoption is involved – before becoming parents. Those are the Big Changes. But most times in my life, I move from one stage to another without even realizing it’s happened except in retrospect.

We finally got the opportunity to see the new Disney/Pixar movie “Brave” today. Being a big Disney fan, I’d been reading online critiques enough to make me curious but not enough to spoil the plot. “Finally, a strong female lead character” read one review “but a disappointing, one-sided stereotypical mother role and a missed opportunity to more deeply explore the oft contentious mother-daughter bond” said another.  Despite the fact that I don’t watch TV, I’d seen the promotional posters and even read an entire article in Wired magazine about how Princess Merida’s (MARE-da) wild red locks were animated. I’d seen various friends’ 140 character reactions, which were, without exception, positive. So I had a few expectations going in: I expected to be entertained, I expected to like the movie, I expected to cry (when do I *not* cry at a Disney movie?), I expected to dislike the mother character, and I expected to identify with and root for the red-headed princess. What I did NOT expect was to look into a giant, movie-screened size mirror and see the villain wearing my face.

[Warning: I will try not to give too much of the plot away here, but if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want ANY spoilers, please come back to this post later.]

The movie started innocently enough – on Princess Merida’s birthday. She was a young child, obviously rambunctious, and was hiding from her mother, Queen Elinor, who just as obviously knew right where she was but made a game of searching. When Elinor caught Merida in a bear hug, Elinor pretended to eat her daughter up like a tasty dessert and the giggles of the animated child on the screen were mirrored by giggles in the seats next to me and brought back happy memories of my own wee one’s babyhood not-so-long past, yet seemingly so far away. She was FUN, this queen and mother, and playfully enjoying her daughter.

Dad was doltish but loving, handing the young child a kid-sized bow and teaching her how to shoot arrows. Elinor looked worried for her daughter’s safety, but my oldest and I shared a wink and a nod since I am a certified archery instructor and my fresh new TEENAGER of less than two weeks (um….when did THAT happen!?) asked for and got her own archery set this past Christmas.

But onscreen as in life, things quickly changed. Merida grew up and the queen started teaching her things – important things – like manners and poise and history. Queen Elinor proved herself to be a classy, poised, educated, and firm woman. She took her duty as a mom and teacher seriously and *gulp* I really liked her. She had rules, as all good parents do. And she was consistent with them, as all good parents must be.  And Merida…well…with typical teen-aged swagger, she was sure she knew better.

I kept waiting for the unreasonable Elinor to appear, the one I wouldn’t like, the one who was stereotypical and flat and one-sided, but all I saw…was me. And it wasn’t in my imagination either. My youngest leaned over at one point and whispered, “She’s just like you, mom!”

But this is Disney. And I’m supposed to identify with the PRINCESS. This is NOT how the story is supposed to go!

The story progressed and there was mother-daughter conflict. There was yelling and anger, actions that couldn’t be undone and words that couldn’t be unsaid – all unsettlingly true to life. Then there was a big change in the plot, which in case you are reading and still haven’t seen the movie, I will NOT reveal. But the smart, poised queen ended up…out of her element, shall we say.

I’d better stop here to confess that the more I identified with Queen Elinor, the more I expected to map the princess to my oldest, who has long, wild, unruly (but non-red) hair and a fervent love of both horses and archery. It was clear this was to be a growing up story, and of COURSE this princess would remind me of my own new teenager, right? Except all of a sudden, as the queen was learning new life skills from her daughter, I realized that this wasn’t a movie about me and my oldest, but me and my very non-traditional, goes-against-the-grain youngest. And I realized that as much as we clash, she has things to teach me.

Later in the movie, more becomes clear. It’s clear that the lessons Elinor was teaching to Merida were valuable to Merida after all, not a waste as Merida thought. And it’s equally clear that Merida HAD learned those lessons, well, even as it looked like they weren’t sticking. Elinor was proud of her daughter and loved her, despite the frustrations – and it was a mutual feeling. And in the end, as ALWAYS happens, the child changed the parent as much as the parent changed the child. At least, thank GOD and Walt Disney, it was a happy ending.

Last school year I focused on preparing myself to be a better parent to a budding teenager. I am so thankful that, for now, our relationship is solid and she is going in the right direction for her (also a direction with which I can live).  But this upcoming school year will, I think, be one of focus on how I can be a better parent to the child who is simultaneously most like and most unlike me. It won’t be easy, but I have confidence that there is a happy ending in our future. Because, as the movie reminds us at the very end, our destiny is something we CAN change, if we are BRAVE.

Raising Clematis

I’ve blogged about my clematis before, but I wonder if I’m the right one to raise clematis.  Clematis defies me and exasperates me.  I like things neat, orderly, and predictable.  Clematis is messy.  In fact, clematis is disorder personified and wild in the truest sense of the word.  The shoots grow fast and in every direction possible.  They have no single minded pursuit of a goal.  They just…grow!  I like control; I like things to go – and grow – the way *I* want them to be.  Clematis defies prediction and direction.  Sure, I can make suggestions to it, kind of  … guide it the way I HOPE it will grow, make sure it has support so it can keep growing without falling over or breaking off.  But really, when it comes down to it, the clematis decides where and how it will grow.  Clematis is … FRUSTRATING

I don’t understand clematis.  I can learn about its development; I can study it in books or online; I can read about other people’s experiences with clematis.  But when it comes to tending real live plants, it’s an ENTIRELY different story.  Clematis is definitely a “learn as you grow” plant.  And every clematis, depending on where and how it’s grown, has unique personality, unique character.

Clematis does not come with instructions, not REALLY.  Descriptions like “keep the roots cool and the foliage in full sun” are laughingly insufficient.  Apparently, I’m supposed to fertilize it – like every 4 weeks.  I have never fertilized my clematis.  I’m supposed to plan other plants underneath it to keep the roots cool and the moisture in.  Uh…nope.  Oh, and I’m supposed to water it, too.  Just ask my husband how good I am about that chore. (hint: watering? what’s that?)

But apparently, clematis is incredibly resilient.  Three weeks ago, I tried to be a good gardener.  I came out with tools and determination to care for the clematis in the early spring like it should be cared for.  It didn’t go well.  I pruned a gigantic part of it down to nothingness in frustration and despair.  It was overgrown, heavy, swaying, unruly.  I couldn’t fix it, so I essentially started over, years and years of growth and training sheared away in minutes.  I was sad.  No, I was sick.  I had lead in the pit of my stomach when I did it.  I was sure I had irreparably harmed it forever, that it was going to die – there were only a few small shoots of new green growth left when I was done.

But yet, in less than a month, the clematis regrew.  In fact, it more than regrew – it THRIVED.  Where I ruthlessly pruned it, the clematis has climbed as high as it’s ever been and seems set to exceed expectations for the year.  Some days, I can literally see a difference in growth from morning to evening.  It grows whether I train it or not, whether I prune it or not, whether I water it or not.  It just. keeps. growing.

But somehow, even though it baffles my very nature (hee hee – pun intended!), this plant brings me joy.  I love how forgiving it is.  It DOES grow – no matter what I do to or with it.  Its shoots reach out like arms and its flowers smile on me even when I don’t feel like smiling.  I LOVE how my porch turns into a literal outdoor room bounded by life-affirming greenery and in time, exuberant purple flowers.  I am sitting outside on the porch now as I write this, and I am so peaceful, relaxed, and calm.  Clematis does that!

I love how the clematis draws other life to our house.  Birds nest in our clematis.  And hummingbirds flit around the vines when they are in bloom – even though the blossoms are purple.  I love it when people compliment my lovely porch in spring and summer, even though I know I had very little to do with how it looks.   I apologize for the ugly brown, dead-looking vines when people visit in the winter.  But I smile wisely inside because *I* know that the new growth comes best from the old, that appearance of death – which is simply rest and not death at all – is the price we pay for spring and summer glory.

So maybe I *am* the right one to grow clematis after all.  Maybe I’m supposed to learn life lessons from my clematis – patience, vision, foresight, acceptance, love.  Maybe things are just as they are supposed to be.

(P.S.  You probably think I just blogged about my clematis.  That’s what I thought I was doing when I started writing this post.  But replace the word “clematis” with the word “kids” and…)

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