Be Yourself
March 15, 2006

One of the things I brought up in yesterday's post was:

    Eventually, my mother was able to convince me that I was not allowed to be a Cub Scout. Some already highly suspicious part of me, though, still suspected that this was simply one of Mom's crazy rules and not something "real."

You see, even by the time I was just five years old, I was already at war with my family. Not because I wanted to be, but largely because I was told at school and at home to "be myself," and yet, my mother never seemed to really like that self that I tried to be true to.

Now, look, that's an old, old story that many of us have been through. There's always a terrible struggle in every family about the time that a child hits the age of two or three and begins to truly assert a growing independence and a personality all their own. And like all such stories, mine certainly starts at that point, but the conflict was much deeper than the "normal" growing pains of a family.

I was a really self-reliant child, even given the developmental idiosyncrasies of a first-born child. My mother, never much of a morning person, was astonished to discover early on, that even before making the migration to the toddler's bed, I would wake up in the morning and play in my crib, quietly and alone for hours (before my stomach woke up and demanded some breakfast). I was soon climbing out of that crib so that I could further amuse myself before Mom had to make an appearance to attend to some baby-hood need or another. So, Mom put a babygate in my doorway to keep me out of trouble.

Resourceful, at two, I pulled my little blue kid's chair over to the gate, unlatched it, got into the cabinets in the bathroom and rooted around for something fun. Luckily I only discovered a jar of Vaseline and not something poisonous. With my newly discovered booty, I went back to my room, closed and latched the gate and proceeded to climb back into my crib and promptly cover my self, bedding and walls with the Vaseline.

Mom only figured out what happened because I neglected to move the little blue chair away from the gate and doorway.

My self-confidence and will to do knew no real bounds at two or even at three and four. If I couldn't do it on the first try, I simply looked around, gathered what tools I thought I needed and tried again.

The battles, of course, were between that child's will and determination and my parents' desires to keep me safe.

At least, on the surface that was the battle.

The secondary battle that almost always happens in any family is how difficult a parent finds it to allow the child to develop his or her own personality and not become a carbon copy of the parent. Sometimes this is an easy task because it's obvious the child has a very strong-personality. Sometimes it's a harder task because the parent sees the child going down a road of which they don't approve or are afraid of.

This was our primary battle � keeping me safe was always secondary to "reining in" my desire to be myself.

The battle surfaced in odd ways when I was small � there were terrible fights about what I would wear, how my hair would look, what I could play with, who I could play with � and I didn't understand why there were so many rules until I was much, much older.

Example. My hair was very very fine, very prone to tangles and I had a pretty sensitive scalp. So, the use of the extra fine tooth plastic comb every morning was something I dreaded beyond all else. At three, I was hiding the comb as soon as I got up in the morning � once Mom was onto that, I would snag it before bed at night and hide it. But somehow, it was always found and the dreaded combing would begin, generally with me in tears very quickly. My mother assumed that I just didn't like it, and I could never seem to make her understand that it really truly did hurt. A lot.

By the time I was four, I was lobbying to have it cut short. Less hair, fewer tangles, less pain, no screaming and crying � obviously this was the best solution.

My mother, though, had a lot of rules. One of them was that women could not have short hair. I pointed out the women on the TV who had short hair. That tennis player � Billie Jean King. This did not make my mother feel better at all. In fact, it made the issue much worse. At four, I had no idea why!

There was a litany of other rules as well. Girls do not play with cars � at least at home. At nursery school it was "okay," but we would be buying no cars. Girls played with Barbies, not Mego superheroes � and certainly not GI Joes. Blocks were "okay," but LEGOs were not. Piano was all right � the drum Grandma got me was not (and for more reasons than just the noise factor that every grandmother seems to love to perpetrate onto their kids). Dad buying me a Snap-Tite model of an F-14 airplane was Not Good � but then again, he bought me something, so Mom couldn't quite make up her mind about that one.

Suffice it to say that my gender was not that of the pink and fluffy girly-girl and Mom was simply devastated by this. She did everything possible to try to convince me to like pink, dolls and dresses, but it simply never took.

Now, I knew other little girls who did not wear dresses, had short hair and played with cars and Barbies, so I knew that I could not possibly be the only girl in the world who felt this way. So, Mom and I battled frequently.

And, when she finally told me that girls could not be Cub Scouts, well, frankly, I assumed that she was simply making up another one of her "crazy" rules.

So, I did what I always did ... tried to find out for myself. I asked the kids at school and I was shocked to discover that none of the girls knew any girls in the Cub Scouts. I asked one of the boys in our neighborhood who answered with the disdain of most five-year-old boys. Something just short of "Hell no, are you CRAZY?"

I certainly felt that way for a while.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 15, 2006 4:55 PM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


outloudandproud said:

hey nice site design! will read more cos I can certainly relate to your topic contents..seeing I never grew up. Always felt that like reality, maturity is highly over-rated! cheers

March 16, 2006 7:33 AM

Wow... you were a very determined little girl! You remind me a lot of my daughter!! She's as inquizitive as you explain and always has been. And, like you, she tends to get in trouble from time to time. The Vasoline would have taken me over the edge!! :o)

I let my daughter play with whatever she wants to... She is her own person and I can't mold her into what I "want" her to be. I have known since I was pregnant with her that she would be very independent, and I was very right.

Great post Ender... You put it together very well... Sorry about the cubscouts!!


March 16, 2006 10:29 AM


zoe said:

oh ender the vaseline hehehehehe my mother and aunt discovered me with a bottle of baby powder in a closed off room; it was cloudy LOL

March 16, 2006 5:27 PM


Cat said:

Well, we cannot say they didn't try! My mom was good though about giving us variety and I was quite the tom-girl. I had a big brother...I wanted to go where HE went.

Nice post...really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your expulsive personality issues ;) I had NO idea! *laughs*

March 18, 2006 2:30 PM
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