DJ and I had the fun of co-hosting our niece's birthday tea party this past weekend. Our niece is a lovely girl-genuinely sweet, spunky, loving and strong too. She comes from a wonderful family-both parents, (and her brother) are loving and doting, and accepting, as they have accepted our daughter from the moment they found out she was their niece rather than their nephew.
Having raised 3 kids, all 3 of whom I initially thought were boys, we only have experience with boy birthday parties. DJ has had a number of co-ed parties the last 3 or 4 years, but prior to that, we obviously never had a typical all girl birthday party. On Saturday, she and I both had a great time helping the girls dress up in a way that felt comfortable to them, having tea, opening presents, making a keychain, all the while, the 9 little girls were giggly and happy, affectionate and energetic.
Whenever DJ is in the company of little girls, I always wonder if entertaining them is not only fun for her, as it does seem to be, but also semi-painful knowing how she missed out on those years. How many years was she lackluster in choosing halloween costumes or clothes for a new school year because she couldn't pick what she really wanted? I remember her reticence clearly and at the time chalked it up to our efforts just not measuring up to what she had in mind, or assuming perhaps she was unusually picky about clothes.
One year, after making multiple suggestions for a halloween costume, DJ's "male" self, JD, agreed that being a knight might be fun. We shopped and got creative and came up with a fantastic and realistic knight costume that we made ourselves. It look so authentic and JD was completely underwhelmed. No tantrums, mind you, because that was not JD's style, and isn't DJ's style for that matter, but just a quiet lack of enthusiasm. I assumed JD was just being picky and ignored the lack of enthusiasm. Now, it pains me to think of it because I know now why the unenthused response-DJ likely had something completely different in mind.
Same with shopping for clothes: sometime around the age of 7, JD started to refuse to wear jeans stating that the metal fastener at the waist made his tummy itch. He did, in fact, get a small, localized reaction when he wore them, so when he began to wear what we all called his "slippery pants" ALL. THE. TIME., we thought nothing of it. Plus, JD would only wear black, grey or dark blue pants probably because that's what most boys seemed to wear. In the summer, the slippery pants were replaced by slippery shorts-same silky, shiny polyester workout clothes, just different lengths, obviously.
When JD started middle school, or junior high, I told him that he needed to be more cool and start wearing jeans again or he would be teased in junior high. He acquiesed, but again, not with any real excitement. Well of course not, because it still wasn't what the real girl inside, DJ, wanted to wear. And of course, DJ/JD continued then with jeans and t-shirts for the next couple of years, during which time JD started growing out his hair and shaving his legs ("to shave seconds off his cross-country times"-we're dumb, we bought it).
I wonder if I'll ever stop feeling sorrow over the years DJ has lost. Her perspective is one I wish I could have and hope it's truly her perspective and not one she "adopts" and pretends to believe for our sakes: that, sure, she wishes it could have been different then, but at least it's different now. She has said as much to me, but I wonder. Maybe it's just my nervous nelly mother-self rearing her ugly head again, ten years after I thought I banished her, but what if she's just trying to convince herself she feels this way while trying to convince us? What if the loss of time, or the sadness over the loss just feels too heavy and she somehow gives in to the dark feelings and loses more time? Yeah, yeah, I probably have been watching too much "Lifetime" TV or something, but these things do happen.
I feel like enough discouraging things have happened for this kid. Hell, for any of my kids, but for DJ in particular. But this thought just occurred to me: all 3 of the kids experienced the loss of their birth father through tragic circumstances when they were but 9, 7 and 3 years of age. DJ remembers none of it, but her brothers sure do. And both boys are in their 20's and doing well. For years, following their loss, I thought that tragedy would color their lives and render them unhappy, in some meaningful way, for the rest of their lives. I truly did. But it didn't. As they become closer and closer to complete and total independence, that part of their lives seems smaller and smaller and less and less impact-ful. (Oh crap-is "impact-ful" even a word? I sound like Oprah Winfrey!) Perhaps the tragedy of her lost little girl years will be the same for DJ. Maybe, just maybe, she'll look back on those years as the time that forged her in fire and made her the steel magnolia she is. I hope so. And you know what? I don't care what it costs, she can have WHATEVER WEDDING DRESS SHE WANTS SOMEDAY!!! That should make up for it-right?