Nature vs Nurture

- This post was featured on HuffPo's {Parenthesis} and I couldn't be more blushy about the whole situation -

My daughter has this little friend at school, who's name doesn't matter, and he wants to hug her and squeeze her and keep her forever and call her George. I sympathize with him, I really do. I feel the exact same way about her most days. She's scrumdidilyicious. 

However, I still let her have friends. I don't bully the other little boy who also very much so loves her and wants to be in her company all. the. time. I don't intimidate her with threats if she defies my wishes or talks to other kids, and I don't lie to the teacher if she steps out of line, saying she said a bad word or hit someone so she'll be punished for making me angry. 

She's not afraid of me, is my point, but she sure as hell is afraid of Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter. 

And it's really just depressing. I mean, she didn't even get to get drunk and meet this clown at some bar and project all her daddy issues onto him like it's her goddamn American right to. Oh no, he picked her out of the crowd like she was waiting prey.

Except she's not waiting prey. 

My mother used to warn me that the bad people could smell me coming. She said that they knew how to find the people like me, people who were weak, broken, vulnerable - that they could find us, and they would, and when they did they'd crush us. She told me to watch out for anyone who took an interest in me, because I was walking around with a target on my back. I wonder why I have trust issues. 

My daughter does not have trust issues. My daughter is the opposite of me in almost every way, because I did the opposite of what my mother did in almost every way. I whisper into my daughter's sleeping ear how amazing she is, how strong she is, how powerful she is. I read her Audre Lorde poems that sing of her strength as a woman and a child of the earth. I sing her my own odes of admiration and love. I tell her every chance I get that she is fiercer than the sun, and stronger than the ocean tides. And still, some little man-person with girl issues and cowboy boots who would certainly refer to her as woman if he only knew how to spell it comes along and tries with all his might to possess her. 

I must admit, it's slightly amusing watching him break himself against the rock that is her. 

But no matter how strong she is, and how secure she is, it is a total mindbleep (because I can't bring myself to say that word in a kid post. I'm losing my edge. I know it.) when someone you are totally emotionally invested in turns the tables over and exploits that investment for their own selfish gain. It's horrifying, watching my seven year old daughter have to navigate this pocket of humanity, watching the little heart I've so carefully guarded from any pain learn the hard lesson that people just ain't no good.

I am cautiously mindful of her reactions to this boy as the situation has progressed. I have tried to guide her decisions without injecting myself into the situation. Letting them have their own experiences, not projection of mine, is the hardest element of parenting I've encountered yet. I worry that she inherited my target along with my crooked toes and blond hair.  I worry that victimization is a recessive gene that you don't realize has passed on until conditions become optimal for it to manifest. I worry that it's instead something acquired through nurture, and that watching me waste the first seven years of her life trying desperately to please and/or appease a controlling, narcissistic alcoholic has told her that is what is normal and good and expected. 

So I watch her closely, I listen for the words I know all too well coming from her mouth that would tell me this boy is winning the battle against her sense of self. I never hear them. I hear honest words like, "I am afraid to tell on him" and "I care about him and don't understand why he cares about me all wrong" and I know that she doesn't have this thing that I have, this curse that keeps the amazing, brillant, powerful women in my family subdued by some man, some religious ideal, some terror of the unknown or the different or that which is difficult and brave. 

Today I was going to go into her classroom to speak to the teacher about Friend Who's Name Doesn't Matter on her behalf. Today, I had found my limit, had enough, decided that she wasn't able to carry this burden any longer. Today I also had a gazillion deadlines, so I didn't go in. Turns out, she did get one thing from me - her line in the sand. Today was her breaking point too. Today he pushed too far, and she pushed back. 

And he backed down. 

He treated her with some goddamn respect. 

He was even kind(ish) to her other little super sensitive man-child-friend. 

And I am so proud of this woman-becoming, who is teaching me more than I will ever in a million years teach her.