Hannah, my daughter, is the peacemaker of her group. Seeing her try to resolve childhood conflicts among her friends is a source of pride and amazement. Even more humbling is seeing her broker peace within our small family of three.
Being in the middle
My daughter is our only child with us. (She has a brother with God). So by default, she is used to being the one in the middle. She lives in between her two parents. She is the one who enters into friendship circles bringing no older or younger siblings (or their histories) with her. As such, the development of her own voice (in conjunction with her conscience) has been more pure, or at least more distinctly recognizable.
I hear her mother in her voice. Eileen, a psychologist, helps children identify and cope with mental and behavioral issues. Hannah attempts to accommodate similar issues with her friends. Some need more attention, some are more active than others or don’t get along with everyone in the group. On play dates, sleep-overs, and parties, she considers the dynamics of her guests and how best to pair them and offer variety.
She also voices social values that come from outside her family sphere. There are a handful of YouTubers who offer opinions on movies, fashion, and other pop culture views. This is mixed in with the social media that her school offers. I am as likely to hear how cool a Jeep is as I am to hear why I might want to read Making Bombs for Hitler. Or how that historical fiction book is similar to A Night Divided.
Being able to tell your own story
She spent a good deal of time on the sofa with her iPhone or iPad. But I was pleasantly surprised that her summer wasn’t all spent on frivolous entertainment. She used it to plan out a video she recently shot with out-of-town friends. She planed future visits to them on social media and shopped for presents to bring. She also used it to reserve books at the library or to request to buy them online.
On our numerous car rides I talked to her about the books she read. She was surprisingly very gifted in being able to share with me the various plots of the books, the lists of main characters and the basic narrative arc of each book. She also confessed that she wished our library was within walking or biking distance of our home because she actually thought it was a cool place.
On our last visit to my parents’ home by the Jersey Shore, rather than play a game of chess on the porch, she decided to assign each of the chess pieces different roles based on characters from the various books she had read. It was an interesting exercise to see how many books she could go through. The final project was assigning roles to characters from the musical Hamilton.
What you may find
Despite her love for different stories, I don’t always feel like my child grasps as enthusiastically the pantheon of Bible stories made available to us through our weekly Masses. Perhaps this is simply because we haven’t had the same kind of moments to break open the word like that. Clearly, she would be able to do so.
But maybe it’s also the case that I just don’t see it as clearly as I see what she does with her friends. Maybe she doesn’t think of the Beatitudes when I see her. When she intervenes in our marital spats, she may not see anything more than trying to maintain the peace and affirm the love that is supposed to be there. It isn’t always as easy to explain to a child why we are struggling with a particular family issue. Nor is it easy for her to overcome difficulties in her own circle of friends. Conversely, it has been surprising to see how easily she has learned to value what we value even if we didn’t teach that explicitly to her.
How does your child surprise you in what they say or do?
Do you find in that greater love and admiration that God has come to be in the middle with you and your child?
Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay