Echoes (part 2)

Miss L is so much like her father, it hurts. Not because I don’t love him, but because I love him so much. He is unlike anyone I’ve ever met, and I’m thrilled that so many of his best qualities are being genetically continued in the world through her. If there’s one thing we could all use, it’s a little more Dannishness in the world. That’s why it’s so devastating to see those parts of her, at best, ignored and at worst-- actively weeded out.

Dan and Miss L share a love of the outdoors. They share a daydreamy distraction that’s equal parts endearing and exasperating. They share the same gentle spirit that loathes hurting other creatures, leaving them both confused and devastated if their cheerful oblivion inadvertently causes someone else pain. They both love working with their hands, whether repairing broken things or making something beautiful. Or maybe that’s the same skill, to them.

Miss L is an amazing writer. She lit up over the summer when she talked about the journalism class offered by her school. “We get to make our own newspaper!” But in August, when we saw her schedule, her elective was listed as Speech & Debate.

“Oh, bummer. Was Journalism full? That sucks,” I said.

“No... Mommy said Speech & Debate would be better for me.”

“But you were so excited about that other class!”

“Maybe I’ll take it next year.”

She rolls her eyes now when we plan to go climbing or hiking. She used to run out the door so fast we had to send her back inside for her forgotten shoes. Part of it is getting older, but part of it is that these are not Approved Activities. She’s been trained that these pastimes are beneath her. And, accordingly, so are we.

Outdoorsy and artsy things are only acceptable under certain conditions. Her new stepdad is really into mountain biking, so that’s on the Approved list. Her mom took piano, so piano lessons are in. Skiing is acceptable. Hiking? Nope. Writing? No way.

List of Approved Activities include getting her eyebrows professionally shaped, shopping for, and wearing, cleavage-baring shirts and skin-tight jeans, even though she’s not even 13 yet. Any future career that makes her lots of money is acceptable. Any future career that would land a lower, but still healthy, salary while also incorporating her creativity-- well, no one talks to her about that possible path. Creativity is not important. Her aesthetic side is just that-- a side dish. Not good enough for the main course.

It breaks my heart to see Miss L rejecting and denying such integral parts of herself. She says she wants to be a plastic surgeon, has herself all lined up for hard sciences and advanced math classes. Which would be fine, if that were her passion, but it’s so clearly not. I’m concerned for her future, not because I think she can’t handle that academic road-- she’s absolutely capable; she’s a brilliant student-- but because those aren’t the things that light her up inside. And ignoring those things has a way of exploding your life out later on.  

I don’t have the same concerns for my stepdaughter that I have for for my own daughter. I don’t worry she’ll self-destruct. Instead, I worry that her true self will drift away, dry and neglected, and she’ll be left wondering why she feels so lost. I worry she’ll want to drop out of college when she finds she hates life without all those things she shuns, those things she’s been taught are unnecessary or unacceptable. I worry that she’ll never be able to embrace that nature-loving, artistic, compassionate being that is her true nature, down under all the artificiality that’s slathered onto her these days. And as a result, she may never be whole.


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