Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On the inside

I know I can't be the only adult who feels like an impostor. I mean, how old do you really feel like you are? On the inside? 16? 18? 21? Maybe you are lightyears more mature than I am and you feel like you are even pushing 25?

Or, perhaps you are 25 in which case I'm not sure how old you feel...10?

I have no problem saying I am 44. Heck, I'm proud of that number because it means that somehow I have managed to go to college, go to graduate school, become employed, get married, and raise three kids all while camouflaging my actual existence as a barely 20-something. It means that somehow I have been fooling everyone for over 20 years into believing I am an actual adult.

Shhh...don't tell anyone.

But lately I have been having a hard time even feeling comfortable as my inner 20 year old because I keep seeing all of these 18...19...20...year old girls who look so freakin' effortlessly pulled together and cool! What is up with that? On my best day I have never looked as put together as today's average 18 year old girl. I was a bonafide ragamuffin as a child and never really outgrew it (you'll remember my issues with irregular showers and an inappropriate reliance on yoga pants).

The other day I ran into a 19 year old girl who went to grade school with my oldest son. I hadn't seen her in years but she remembered me and immediately gave me a hug and launched into the most poised, mature, friendly conversation I had had in days. As my head was spinning from the shock of that I noticed than in addition to her brilliant conversational skills (I had a hard time keeping up because I was so wowed by her girl-woman adorableness) she was also in just the cutest summer outfit and her hair was perfection and she managed to pull all of this off while making it look as though she had hardly given any of it a minute of thought.

Did I know anyone at 19 who was that together? Was I?

The short answer is, no. For sure I was not but maybe some of my friends were. Forgive me if any of my childhood friends are reading this thinking, 'Thanks a lot, Friend! I was totally all that and a bag of chips at 19!' but my memory fails me at times (which is how I know I really am 44).

Later though...after the wooziness passed and I texted my son to tell him he should really get in touch with this girl again because she is so stinkin' cute (he loved that)...my head cleared and I remembered that no one has it all together at 19. No one. Even the most adorable, smart, personable girl in the world. I'm sure on any given day, including that day, this darling girl battles hidden insecurities and hurts and wounds that can't be seen when you are only looking at hair, clothes and a smile. It made me want to go back and find her and give her another great big hug and tell you her, "YOU ARE SO AWESOME JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!!" Which might have scared her a little so it's probably best that only happened in my head.

And then I look at my own little ragamuffin.

My daughter has inherited my less-than-put-together style. She is starting to care about her clothes but thankfully leans more toward athletic, modest styles then attempts to look "grown-up". She likes her hair long but would never brush it if I didn't tell her to. She prefers it down but mainly because she doesn't want it fussed with. In fact, 9 times out of 10, it's hanging in her face, something she scarcely seems to notice.

She never looks in a mirror.

She doesn't worry about getting her hair wet while swimming.

She doesn't mind getting dirty or sweaty.

She will sleep in the same clothes she wore that day and get up the next day and wear them again (until I tell her to change).

She is far more interested in figuring out what she wants to do each day and who she want to be then how she wants to look.

The other day I was grumbling about the chronic problem of her hair hanging in her face and she said to me quietly, "I don't think my hair should matter so much. You always tell me what matters is what is on the inside. My hair is on the outside." 

And in that moment I decided I was going to practice biting my tongue a lot more and fussing over hair a lot less.

How many more years do we have of her being so blissfully accepting of herself and utterly lacking in self-consciousness? How many more years will she spend all day playing in the lake without the slightest concern that her hair looks like a mound of seaweed on top of her head? How many more years do we have of her wanting the sporty swimsuit so she can play hard without a care in the world? (Hopefully forever).

Every mother and father hopes that somehow with conscientious parenting and unconditional love and positive affirmations our kids can escape the angst and insecurities of adolescence. But anyone who has any accurate recollection of those years at all knows the chances of that are one in a million. Because most of us realize that even though you hopefully leave a lot of that behind the older you get, that awkward teen lives on in all of us making herself known more often than we would like.

So, for now, I will try as much as I can to just let her be. Let her be messy. Let her hair fall in her face. Let her clothes be mismatched. Let her play hard and dream big.

I will let her be....Annie.

Our beautiful girl.