Saturday, October 18, 2008

American Beauties

Raising daughters is both a wonderful gift and an incredible responsibility. Teenage girls today have so many issues to deal with. Aside from the ones we dealt with, they have to handle sex, drugs, body image and a myriad of other issues that may have touched our lives back in the day, but run theirs.

I watch with pride as my daughters wander the halls of their high school, both are honor students, in band and on the swim team and that is where the similarities stop. My oldest daughter, Frankie, is beautiful, talented and in your face. She is the first to fight for whats right, the one to stand up for what she believes in, the only problem is, is so often after the battle is won she is walking away alone. She is the first to befriend people, she doesn't even understand how important she is to the dynamics of her group. She is the heart, the one who brings people together and yet often once they find each other she is left out looking in. This devastates her she would never just randomly throw someone over like that. Frankie has a tough shell and a tender heart. She is an honor student, a varsity swimmer and if she wanted to be could be an excellent musician but she sees herself as not as pretty, not as thin, not as talented as all the rest. This grieves me so... when Frankie was 3 years old she decided she wanted to learn how to ride her bike with no training wheels. I being the obliging mom that I am removed the wheels and stood behind her. Ready to hold her up as she went.. she looked up at me all serious with these powerful green eyes and said.. "no mommy i can do it myself". The next day we took a 3 mile bike ride.. she was on her way. It bothers me that, that determined little girl has let others dictate who she is. She questions her looks and yet she has a smile that can light up a room. Powerful and beautiful. Dangerous.

While Frankie is bluster and determination... mixed with a bit of self doubt, Remi is cool, breezy, California Girl, who just happens to live in the Midwest. She has been blessed with what society claims are good looks. She is charming and sweet, an honor student and a striving tuba player. Having been handed what society dictates as everything, she has spent many years just being the cute one. She played her looks naturally for years. While Frankie determined at three that she would ride her bike, Remi at 5 still hadn't done much more than sit on hers. When I asked her if she was ever going to learn how to ride that thing... she looked up at me with beguiling blue eyes all a wonder.. and said "No, mommy I look good just sitting on it". Needless to say she was riding that bike the next day, well sort of. Remi has never had to question her looks, she has always had to deal with the fact that others question her intelligence. She is probably my smartest child, while Frankie gets ahead in persistence, Remi does it naturally. She has a thirsty mind always wanting to know.. and wonders around saying things like "quantum physics sounds rather interesting". Beautiful, generous and smart and yet she too has to wonder where and how she fits in.

Both of my girls have remarkable strengths and character and yet each flounder in finding themselves in today's society. There is something wrong with a world that makes girls such as these feel inferior in any way and yet they both struggle in their own ways. Remi has been seated in a class with the children who need assistance.. not to help them but because the teacher made the assumption that my daughter was not quite bright enough to figure it out. The idiot still better stay out of my path. Frankie is forever passed over as though she was not girly enough. She is stunning and yet society says she is too heavy, she approaches things head on and yet society says girls should keep their mouths shut. And it still says that.

These girls every day have to deal in a world where it is not safe for them to walk alone anywhere, they carry ridiculously difficult schedules. participate in sports and look pretty when they do it. Oh and act stupid so no one makes fun of them for being smart and to top it all off they get to be looked down on by kids that have been decreed cool, who are not as smart, or as talented or as pretty... and yet everyday they get up with smiles on their faces and dream of what they will be doing.

It is difficult to guide them, to know when to listen and when to speak, to understand that I hate you mom really means but mom Johnny didn't ask me out. For each thing a parent gets right she gets 100 wrong and yet I can't imagine ever not having this. These wonderful gifts I have been given. These beacons into the world I hope eventually they come into their own and are strong, beautiful, independent women, looking at me in the rear view mirror. Then I will know I did good.

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