Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Of fire trucks and dreams

Clone needed black pants for her band concert this week. She hit a growth spurt RIGHT after we got her a pair for the December concert. Such is our luck, right? So, off to a second-hand store that sells kids' clothes. The store has this giant toy firetruck near the registers, with a sign on it that it's not for sale, just for fun.

Clone was in the dressing room, repeating every try-on session I've ever had. We've got ample bootie, and it poses challenges with proper fit, and my need to veto a lot of what she has tried on for putting too much cash and prize on display. She's got a long femur too, so it's a trifecta making virtually every skirt or pair of shorts too far north on her legs. I was poking around looking for cute onesies for chunk boy's summer wardrobe. He is his daddy's clone - long torso, short legs, not skinny. The kid's elbows have dimples.

Meanwhile, this little girl who may have been around age 3 or 4, was there with her mother. The little girl pointed out the fire truck to her mom, and mom promptly said "That's for boys." That little girl shrank. Not only did her mother shut her down, but then she squashed her daughter's interest in dreaming. I said something about knowing some women who are first responders that would disagree. Mama didn't seem interested in, or pleased with, what I said. Honestly, I did not care. Lord, please let this child go on a school field trip to a fire house and find at least one or more women in the line of duty. My heart breaks for that family, broken down before dreams even begin to take shape.

I heard "you can't" as a child. My mother heard it in her childhood. Some of the problem was that my parents didn't have the extra money for things. But pride got in the way. "Can't" should have been followed by "afford". The word "can't" in my childhood was translated to ability, not finances. It prompted me to be honest with my kids when things were unaffordable. "It's not in the budget" or "we don't have the extra money" is honest, and pride-piercing. But it's not dream crushing.

My dad let me tinker with his tools when I was a kid. I entered adulthood with small skills that paid dividends. I could make small repairs and saved money on replacing items or hiring someone to fix stuff. We lived in base housing when tropical storms blew through Camp Lejeune. Base housing has a list of self help items they can give residents to do things like change air filters, replace the hook and eye latches on screen doors, replace broken porch light globes etc. My screen door was ripped, and I couldn't open the door for fresh air without bugs moving in with us. I went to the self help shop at the housing office to ask for screen material. The guys looked at me like I was nuts, and said "it's not on the list of stuff we can give you."  He may have said something about my husband, but it's been so long, I forget.
I looked at him and said "Well, I have tools and a staple gun, and I can fix a screen door. Or, I can add one more piddly ticket to your list of work orders, and it'll be months before I get a screen door fixed because other people have trees in their houses." He paused a minute, sighed, and gave me enough screen for my door. I was an antithesis of the typical Marine wife, and I don't know that he'd ever experienced anyone like me before. The guys in the maintenance department appreciated that when I called for repairs, it was really worth their time, and not BS calls like someone's closet doors being off track and they didn't know how to get them back on there.

I realize it's an anomaly to see non-traditional roles in play. My sons can cook and clean, and my daughters love motorcycles. They've all played with kitchens, cars, dolls, and tool sets. Clone will say she'd rather hang with the boys because they have something interesting to say, versus girl gossip. Blur was at a party recently. There was a bounce house and the boys were being brutes. The other girls ran away, but my feisty redheaded little girl stayed put, refusing to cave to the boys' attempts to get the bounce house girl-free. A time or two, she may have done that running back block.

I want my kids to accept dreaming as a possibility. I want them to take leaps of faith and do things that interest them. I want them to not have to battle the inner bully of self-sabotage and self-defeat that I have. Logically, I know I can do things. Internally, I constantly nudge that timid child out of the corner, making her try new things, and do things she resists. It started with getting my motorcycle endorsement two years ago. It's incredibly empowering to learn to ride. It's incredibly soul-strengthening to get in the saddle over and over and build the skill and confidence to venture among the "cagers". I got sidelined a bit, but I will be getting back in the saddle in a couple years. My body still needs to rebuild, I have a new baby, and I'll need to take the endorsement course again because I have already forgotten a lot of it. In the meantime, I've found myself surrounded by a lot of awesome cheerleaders who help me stifle the inner bully, and spurn the timid child forward. I want my kids to see me go after goals, achieve things, and not defer dreams. I want them to strike out in search of their own dreams, and the best way to do that is by example.

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