Two Different Lenses

Friday Afternoon

After dragging my camera all over town with me today, it wasn’t until late this afternoon on my way home from a long list of errands that I found anything that inspired me. The warmth of real spring sunshine was distracting and I just wanted to wander aimlessly. I wasn’t really interested in finding the “great shot” for the blog.

After yesterday’s photographic excitement of the Aquarium with its coral and jellyfish, even the Arboretum, in the full glory of spring’s blossoming trees, wasn’t doing it. I love the Arboretum. Its a comfortable, familiar place. I loved walking through with my camera this afternoon, but its like being in the mountains, the photos never seem to quite capture the magnificence of the scene. The flowering cherries and crabapples, when they burst into blossom all at once, turn Azalea Way into a surreal walk through puffs of pale pink and clouds. A couple of weeks ago, the deciduous trees were still all sticks. The evergreens, early blooming Daphne’s and Witch Hazels provided the only color. Though I walk or run through here often, it changes so fast this time of year that its never the same. Still, every time I bring my camera, I come home relatively empty handed… I do think that its not really possible to capture, but there are always tons of photographers there.

Tonight, in asking myself, for the umpteenth time, why my photographs of the Arboretum never seem to get me all that excited, I realized that its quite a simple thing. My major interest in photography is story-telling, and the images of trees and flowers that aren’t part of a larger narrative are just that, pretty trees and flowers. Going through the images I shot today, I narrowed my selection down to three. All three have at least one person that is clearly the focal point of the image. Maybe I should just write a story about this guy!

This is not a story about the guy… this is the parenting part of what I wanted to write about tonight:

I think one of the most difficult moments in parenting is trying to gauge what an upset child really needs, or sometimes, even what it is that they are upset about. After a tough few days with my daughter, we finally got to the nitty gritty tonight. Of course, what it all boils down to is stress from outside of home, but I had no way of knowing that earlier, and couldn’t figure out what was making our relationship so challenging. It wasn’t really anything I was doing differently, but the vicissitudes of seventh grade girls friendships that were causing the trouble.

Its hard to help your child understand that what seems so irrevocable and permanent today, is likely to reverse itself a few weeks from now, and even trying to convince them is dangerous. They are sure that you don’t understand, and likely to shut down completely. It wasn’t until I finally thought to tell her that I was pretty sure that seventh grade was the worst year of my life, that Gillian cracked a smile. When I told her that I sometimes hung out in the bathroom during recess, we were speaking the same language. I remember my neighbor once referring to seventh grade as “hell” not very long ago, and I remember Charlotte’s tears over her friendships that year. The story is always different, and the hurt feelings manifest differently, but it always seems to be a story of being on the outside. I wonder if anyone is immune to this. I wonder if the kids who look like they are sailing by; who always seem to be surrounded by a group of girls, find themselves teary because they feel abandoned by their friends, or if they just worry that they might be and so are no happier. Boys don’t seem to suffer through seventh grade in quite the same way, but they too have their experiences of being on the outside looking in. I don’t think middle school boys are quite as likely to be cruel though, in that sneaky, deliberate way of leaving someone out and making sure they know about it while pretending that wasn’t the intention. I’m not sure why it happens, but I am always amazed at how easily some moms allow and even contribute to the situation. The only thing that I can conclude, and I’m not, by any means, an expert in adolescent girls behavior and psychology, is that when they seem to exacerbate the situation, it must be because thats the way that they, the mother, was treated as a young girl, and the wounds are still unhealed. They’re trying to make their old hurts better by doing whatever they can to make sure that their own daughters are not the ones on the outside looking in. That fear, is then translated to the younger generation, and as I know I’ve written here before, there is only fear and love. What is not love is rooted in fear, and that includes all hurt and hurtfulness.

How do I help my daughter through this? All I can do is hold up love for her as the sign post.

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