Skylar and I are on a date – we are seeing Brave at the local theater.
About half way into the movie she says, “Can we go? I’m tired.”
I'm kind of tired, too. The movie is beautiful in many ways, colors and imagery, but I’m bummed about the witch angle. I’m a bit bored and I’m not feeling the connection and spirit that I felt in the first 30 minutes.
So after a deep breath I say, “Sure, let’s go.”
We walk out and she is quiet. She looks at me and says, “I really wanted to see that movie, just like Cami did.”
Camryn, her 7 year old sister, is seeing Brave today while she is on a playdate with her friend. I don’t know how she feels about the movie, but I do know she is excited to be on her playdate. She counted down the days and was more than ready to say goodbye when I dropped her off.
Right now Camryn likes her time away, she likes her time with her friends, and she likes adventures without mom and dad.
When we get home, Skylar says, “I don’t have any other things I want to do. I just want to play with my people. I don’t have a list like Jacey.”
Jacey, her 9 year old sister, is on a date with her dad. Together they made a list of things they wanted to do and a few hours ago they jumped on a train to begin their day together.
Right now Jacey prefers intimate and extended time with the ones she loves most – namely her parents. She could stay all day with her dad, no other kid in sight, and she would be very content.
I tell Skylar she doesn’t need a list of things to do. I am happy to be here at home as she plays with her people.
She looks down for a minute, then looks up and says, “Sure?”
In a very small way she already feels the discomfort of being different - different than Camryn, different than Jacey. She is searching for commonality, something that makes her feel like she belongs.
This is typical and developmentally appropriate. But I want her to respect her inner voice, too. I hope to support her as she identifies her differences and her own needs.
Today she wanted to walk out of a movie, and since it was just the two of us, I could easily honor her request. And when she would like to have quiet time at home, I can hear her rather than make her stick to an unnecessary agenda.
Since I just walked out, I don’t know how Brave ends (it’s Pixar, so I’m sure they wrapped it up nicely), but I know that at the beginning of the movie the mother did not understand or listen to her daughter.
The mother had her own agenda, her own needs, and her own fears about what others think or what could happen. And all of this noise in her head disabled her from hearing her daughter or realizing that her daughter did not share her dreams.
Her daughter was her own person with her own thoughts and needs. She was an individual with her own path and desires.
And it’s a parent’s job to notice and normalize this rather than “mold” children into who they think they should be, or tell them that they should be like their siblings or friends.
So I look at Skylar and answer, “Yes, I’m sure we can just hang out here.” She smiles and resumes her people play.
At times my daughters will be asked to do things they don’t want to do – at home, in the classroom, in the real world, and they will be expected to follow through, regardless of how they feel about it.
But there are other times when they can have choices, when they can be heard, when they can be seen. These are the times when we have the opportunity to validate their inner voice, to demonstrate acceptance, and to express our love.
Camryn, I love you, even though you don’t need me at all today. Jacey, I love you, as you go through your list of adventures and to-dos with your dad (a list that would tire me out). And Skylar, I love you, even if all you want to do is hang out and play with people.
Which brings to mind one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes:
Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you’. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.
So girls, regardless of what makes you happy today or tomorrow, I hope I can do my best to liberate you. I hope I can see through my own fear and just let you be.
Today it’s pretty easy, other times it’s been more difficult, and tomorrow….well, I’ll do tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
And on a much simpler note, I hope to eventually see the end of Brave, and I hope it somehow ends with the mother learning to let go (she was in quite the predicament when I walked out of the theater).
I hope the mother wakes up and sees that her daughter is begging for an opportunity to be herself and live her own life, and I hope she finds freedom from her fear and her need to control.
That would be brave.