Updated: May 16
I am the youngest of four. And if you count cousins, I am the youngest of twelve. And not by a few years, by decades.
Growing up, my siblings and cousins were on average 2.75 life steps ahead of me (if we're reasoning that life has about seven steps just like all other practical things).
I was always trailing behind and trying to observe what they were doing and then attempting to do those things. Except it wouldn't work out too well because I wasn't them-- but where was Emmy?? It was challenging to be authentically me.
If you have a child who is a little different-- perhaps spends a lot of time alone in her own little world and doesn't speak up a lot-- there's 5 things my mother did that helped me be the creative person I get to be.
She Asked Me What I was Thinking Every single night, she would tuck me into bed and ask me about my day or what I was thinking. And she'd sit there as long as I wanted her to as I probably carried on about how I saw a television show where sharks were getting their fins cut off in China and how on earth could people do that???? I'd cry. And then, I'd play the tambourine after she left (this is not a joke, I could play my tambourine if I stayed in my room).
She Wasn't Afraid of my "Different" I was different. Whether that's undiagnosed ADHD, my soul's been recycled one too many times, or I am just a more creative type-- I've always been a little different. Can't focus too well, had to stay after school for further testing, and was told I should be in "special" classes -- and not "gifted and talented" ones. I was terrible with numbers and dreamed of saving those finless sharks that are drowning because they literally cut their fins off and how awful is that?!??!?!?
She Gave Me Space This one is big because kids who are creative types need to given lots and lots of thinking space. I was never bored as a kid, I was always dreaming or imagining or exploring. She gave me space and never hovered over me asking me why I wanted to spend so much time alone. THANK YOU, MOM.
She Invested in My Decision-making Abilities The most brilliant parent trick ever-- she put our decision-making abilities back on us. We didn't even have a curfew. She'd just tell us, "I trust that you'll make the right decision." And man that worked on me. I went out to parties and didn't drink, I wanted to take care of my body and my spirit because my parents taught me how to respect myself.
She Allowed Me to Stumble I was a very chubby baby. My siblings and cousins (being teenagers when I was born) loved carrying me around. I'm sure I could've gotten away with never touching one plump baby toe to the ground until I was 27 months. Just carried everywhere, fed and fanned, like a baby Egyptian heir to the throne. My mother would ask my siblings not to carry me so that I would fall and learn how to walk. When I'd come home from school, years later, sad about something in sports, school, or the fact that sharks are STILL getting their fins chopped off-- my mother didn't solve the problem for me. She allowed me to work my way through it.
Mothering, I believe, is the most thankless, hard job that one will ever have. Those experiences also come with the opposite-- the reward.
I am so grateful, Mama Jayne, that you allowed me to be my "different" self growing up and didn't force me into a life that would've never worked for me. I truly owe it to you for where I am today. You received the first phone call whether it was awful or happy news. You sat with me through all of it. You are my person who I get to look to and know that the slicing grief I feel inside from the loss of TJ is understood by you. You get the most painful emotions and the most powerful.
Thank you, Warrior Mama Jayne, for allowing me to be me.
p.s. TJ is one who coined "Unapologetically Emilee," it's my favorite name to be called right after "TJ's little sister."
Mother's Day - May 14, 2023