I have two beautiful, funny, loving, interesting daughters. One of them is pretty and funny and clever but is going through her own battles with anxiety and self-loathing (which naturally I feel guilty about - I don't think I model these [really!] but she did get my crappy DNA). The other is happy and resilient and popular and is also tall and thin and lovely; this makes her shorter sister jealous and her father go on and on to me about how gorgeous she's going to be, both of which things irk me no end. But at the same time sometimes all I feel too is an overwhelming anger at the world's treatment of young girls and their egos, and I worry how I can protect her and how she can preserve her happy confident self in a world so threatening and unsafe.
I know, glass half full, right?
I'm not normally like this, I'm really not. I know I can't keep my children safe from all harm, and I also know they are not likely to meet it. I know parents project their own worries, regrets and failures onto their children. I know kids are their own special people and have strengths and abilities we underestimate, and that kids are not just the sum of their parents.
But the past week has contained this:
- Our corner milkbar was robbed in daylight and the lovely woman who runs it with her husband was attacked and stabbed - she is unable to work and will need multiple operations and plastic surgery to recover. She had to run into the street, bleeding and crying, and flag down a car for help. Her attacker was caught, but she and her family are traumatised. Her husband is manning the milkbar alone, and their lives are changed. These are good, lovely, excellent people. I cannot get over the fact this has happened.
- Vandals spraypainted all over the school. I know it was just high school kids who used to go there and it's no big deal, but it's still an ugly thing.
- My daughter A had a big old meltdown at school and required an intervention from two teachers and the visiting psychologist to help her. They did help her, and she's OK, and all is OK, but still.
- Another horrible, horrible gang rape in India. While it's been only 4 months since the gang rape of a 5-year-old there, and the countless other rapes happening every day
- Miley Cyrus getting attacked all over the internet with the usual vicious ferocity that rains down on any twenty-year old trying to shake off a cutesy childhood past and try on the sexy.
I heard Colleen McCulloch on radio once talking about her life, when her autobiography was published, and she talked about the different feelings she had when her son and her daughter were born. With a son, she said, you felt his life and future were so full of promise, that he could do anything and be anything. With a daughter though, you feel a bit like, well, here's someone else who's going to go through all the same shit.
It keeps seeming like things are getting better, and then it seems obvious they are not. These are times when seeing any gorgeous, happy young girl makes me anxious, protective and angry. I know that's not right or helpful, but it does. When I see grown men salivating over girls in their teens, or children playing games where the girls self-censor or are censored by their playmates for being tough, strong or heroic; when I see my girls, and all girls, in all their beauty and promise about to step up into a huge, exciting, wonderful and dangerous world, I am overcome.
How do you shake off sadness?