Yesterday we spent a couple of hours exploring an art collective called The Goat Farm. Housed in an abandoned warehouse, there were lots of secret beautiful places that one can only find in decay. We drag our kids to places like this all the time, and they tag along for the most part, willingly. Camille though seems as drawn to these places as we are. Now that she has her Itouch she has begun to take pictures as well (I'll post some later when she can bear to be parted with her music).
Camille's world is not unopen to us at this point in our journey. We have over the years, she and I, come to bridge what I thought was an unknowable gap between us. The layers of frustration that so often lead to conflict are there but not as much as they used to be. There are less tears, less yelling, less apologies that left us both still feeling like our hearts were broken. While I don't always fully understand Camille's world, it's okay because she doesn't really fully understand mine either.
At some point in my struggles with Camille, I was exhausted. I came to a point where I had to recenter back to my basic philosophy of parenting. A, make sure they are good people. B, don't work against them but with them. This is what I slowly began to do with Camille. I started to allow her to be who she was without compromising the family or her own being. It meant not pushing her to befriend all the kids at the park, and being okay with her sometimes retreating to the van to read. It meant not fretting over how she interacted with others, figuring out that sometimes a socially unacceptable behavior that wasn't hurting anyone was okay to let slide. I had to let go of my own insecurities and my own pain that has followed me. Pain that came from being different.
Something amazing happened when I decided to stop fighting against who Camille was becoming. We began to have a relationship. A real one. And as I let her be more of herself, it opened up a way for her to become more a part of this shaping process. She became more responsive to what I had to offer. Instead of belligerently rejecting my advice on how certain tones could be rude, or how a self soothing behavior might not be polite, she began to listen to me. Things are by no means perfect as we are two human beings who will naturally rub each other the wrong way. We are also both stubborn, bitchy, outspoken, and arrogant. It has always amused me that our conflict arises as much from our similarities as our from our differences.
Lately it is not unusual for Camille to lean against me with her arms around me. We have not always had this closeness. As she develops into a woman, we are finally able to touch each other in a way that is filled with the quiet comfort of familiarity.
But more importantly, I realize that people have begun to read how we interact with Camille and it seems they are taking a cue from us. I have always heard people say this, and honestly, I scoffed. Mostly because it doesn't seem to happen that way but in the times it does happen it is striking and affirming. At the Goat Farm yesterday, as we explored the ruins of manufacturing, we finally found some goats (after all the place is called "The Goat Farm."). They were tied a a lead connected to the railings of stairs leading to a huge porch. There appeared to be some kind of yard sale going on and as we approached a young woman invited us to pet the goats. While the kids played with the goats, I started to ask the woman about the collective. As she described the studios and the artists, I noticed Camille sidling up to us. During a pause in the conversation, she announced "I'm an artist." She didn't quite look at the woman talking to us which is how she normally approaches conversations with strangers. She wants to talk but she can't quite bear the intensity of that contact.
She then launched into a rather one sided conversation about her art. She talked about her drawings, her style, her writing. She mentioned that she would like to do pottery and she was interested in making movies (who knew?). The young woman initially acted a little uncomfortable but very quickly relaxed into the rhythm of Camille's talk. I gently asked Camille quick questions to stir her to other places, and reminded with a touch to listen to what the woman was saying to her. But I didn't try to shape Camille's conversation or her move away or rush along as I might have a few years ago. And the young woman began to relax even more and talk to Camille the same way. It was clear she was taking from me a cue as to how to interact with Camille.
Mothering Camille has shown me that while we are guides to our children, we are not the sole creators of their beings. Who they become is a complex collage of biology, family, culture, etc. They, like us, are constantly becoming and we can run with them or against them. I'm choosing to run with Camille. Our paths are after all merging together for this stage of her life, and I'd rather be with her so that when her path veers from mine perhaps a bit of our journey will go with her.