We woke up a week ago this morning to a foot of freshly fallen snow powdered over the sprigs of green in the yard and the daffodil blooms in the flowerbeds. By noon most of the snow had melted, and Monday found us in our shirt-sleeves as we prepared to get back into the groove of school after a week of Spring Break. And what a week it has been. The girls had class pictures on Tuesday and we had family portraits for our church directory made on Friday. So I've blown dry and curled two heads full of long, thick hair twice this week.
Doing hair at our house always involves some measure of drama and this week the duty and the drama doubled. Tears book-ended the week because of sibling rivalry and friend issues and all of that angst came tumbling out with the tangles. I tried to dry tears as well as tresses and create conversational moments along with the curls. I'm not sure how to measure success. The hair came out lovely, but in the midst of the up-dos we also had shouts and even a fainting spell.
Raising two girls and shepherding two young women through the throes of puberty promises to turn what hair I have left to solid gray. During the process of getting ready for family pictures on Friday, I continued a conversation with my 11 year old about the film she viewed the week before - the 5th Grade Film - PUBERTY! I'd heard some commentary from other moms about conversations taking place, and I wanted to make sure Courtney didn't have any questions. While she indicated she had not been involved in the discussion of birth control, somehow she had heard part of a conversation about epidurals. Confused, she wanted to know why you needed drugs when you were having a baby. I tried to follow developmental wisdom and only answer what she was asking, but she continued to dig. In my quest to ensure she has the information she wants and needs, I continued to answer. It was hot and humid in the bathroom and she was wrapped in her fuzziest robe. After several pressing questions about why childbirth hurts enough to need drugs, she looked at me in the mirror and said "Mom, can we stop talking about this now, I feel...." and before she could say dizzy, or sick, or funny - she fainted dead away.
Now she has fainted once before, when she cut her chin open and stood contemplating stitches - so I've seen it before. But let me tell you, when your daughter collapses in your arms, eyes rolling back in her head, body jerking in a seizure, tongue curling back in her throat, it strikes terror in your heart. She came to immediately and felt fine after lying still for a few minutes. But I felt horrible. Did I share too much information? Is my drive to make sure my girls are equipped and informed pushing me to go too far?
I don't know the answer to that question. I am often at a loss as a mom of a growing tween. How do I convey information about which clothes are becoming on her developing body, especially since she doesn't fit the twig model so many tween clothes are designed for? How do I support her when girl friends shift alliances and she feels left out without being a total helicopter mom? How do I ensure that she and her sister feel adequately, equally loved but still assign responsibilities appropriate for their ages? Can I do anything to make sure they recognize what a treasure they have in each other or is that simply something they have to figure out on their own in the midst of constant bickering? And how much of it all is my projection of my own pain in those years instead of what she is really experiencing?
I don't know. But I do know this. When I was in 5th grade, my mother and I fought constantly over my hair. She had preconceived notions of what I must look like to pass muster to leave the house. My hair was long and thick and curly - and a ponytail often would not do. So she combed and pulled and prodded and curled and sprayed and combed some more, with me fighting her all the way. If there ever was a calm moment to share my hormonal angst about my friends or lack thereof - somehow she turned it into a lesson on civility and morality. I dared not ask a question about puberty, sexuality, my body, boys or anything related to those topics. Finally, I cut my hair short, and started doing it myself, even in the face of pretty constant criticism at first until I learned how to effectively use a hair dryer and a curling iron. And we stopped having screaming matches over my hair. In fact, we stopped having much conversation at all.
My girls have long, thick, beautiful hair. My 11 year old manages hers completely on her own most of the time, except for special occasions. When she requests my help, I try to respect her sense of how she wants to appear and help her achieve that goal. I tell her, out loud and often, how beautiful she is. My almost 7 year old needs more help. Her hair, also long and beautiful, is often tangled and wind-blown. But I let her do what she can, and I try to make my helping time a positive interaction. I don't want my girls to remember fighting over their hair. Fainting because of too much information on the pain of childbirth... well that's another matter entirely!