So…I have two teenagers…with whom I am extremely close.
I have a very non-traditional home. I’m a single mom, entrepreneur and as pretty wide-open as a person can be. My kids know my story. And it “ain’t pretty.”
The short version of it looks like this: At age fifteen, I started drinking. I also started running competitively. Sixteen years later, after three International Ironman Championships, a Chemistry and Social Work Degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, a marriage and a divorce, multiple jobs and a lot of heartache, I hit bottom. On July 7th, 1993, I set out on a five mile run that changed my life. Three years later I started Girls on the Run and the rest is awesomeness incarnate.
I am about as curious a person as you’ll ever find and I’m not usually afraid to ask questions that to some, may be a bit over-the-top. But those who know me, know that my curiosity comes from a place of constant self-analysis and a desire…truly…to expand my horizons…lean into something new so that my truth becomes fuller, richer and more expansive.
And so…this is why “the bubble” broadsided me a couple of weeks ago.
My home is a very creative one. Music, a writing wall, frequent dancing breaks, skateboarding in the playroom, three dogs, two cats and a kitchen that is, how shall I put it, creatively stocked. I have no awareness, truthfully of designer anything and the Martha Stewart gene, clearly passed me and landed with my sisters. Honestly? I think my home and lifestyle can be a bit overwhelming for some folks.
So when my daughter showed up for driver’s ed a couple of weeks ago, I got a humbling and hilarious look at how even a home such as mine, becomes a bubble.
Let me explain.
Helen is a free spirit. Always has been. When she was three, she went several weeks wearing Dorothy Red Glitter shoes and a bike helmet. Everywhere, she went, the helmet and those shoes followed her. There she was perched in her carseat, up high for all to see…that white helmet with stickers gone wild and those red shoes kicking the passenger seat in front of her. I think about it now and I laugh…out loud.
Helen was never afraid to speak up.
I remember once when we were in a Starbucks, the girl was learning all about rhyming words. She looked at the nice young man in line behind us and began the rhyming game.
“So,” she said, “What rhymes with House?”
“Mouse,” he kindly responded.
“What rhymes with cat?” she queried.
“Hat.” He is tickled now. Helen’s charm is full-on.
A pause and a smile on her face and then this…”What rhymes with bagina?”
I don’t remember if the nice young man responded, I just remember loving my girl with all my heart.
Helen is a rising tenth grader, plays the electric guitar and loves AC/DC, Def Leppard and 1975 (a band you have more than likely never heard of…and this is precisely why she likes them.) She wears a lot of black, black t-shirts, black jeans, black boots and even chose her guitar based on its fabulous black sheen. (The fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I’ve worn black for most of my professional life, but for me it’s not because it’s cool, but because it’s easy. Remember that Martha Stewart gene? I didn’t get the fashion gene either!) I’ve homeschooled her for two years through a program offered by George Washington University and she has a group of besties that include three of the coolest human beings, I’ve had the pleasure to ever know.
So, when we pulled up to driver’s ed, a couple of weeks ago, we were humbly reminded of how unexposed our overly exposed and open household really is. Many of the kids lining up to sign in were from Charlotte’s private schools and were, not-so-shockingly, not dressed like Helen. Nike shorts, pony tails and t-shirts, or floral prints, braided hair and short shorts.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting one style of dress or one way to APPEAR is better than another, I am just suggesting they are different and for my daughter Helen there was an immediate “I stick out like a sore thumb” reaction. Now…let’s not forget that this was the same girl who wore a bike helmet and Dorothy red slippers for two months when she was little, so sticking out like a sore thumb is, basically her modus operandi…and just like the kid clomping through a restaurant at age three with those accoutrements proudly adorning her head and feet, she did the same walking into her driver’s ed class.
(I am reminded here of the Breakfast Club. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkX8J-FKndE)
But suffice it to say, it provided for the two of us an incredible opportunity to talk about our lifestyle and the choices we have made…and how much easier and often times not-thought-out-our-choices-become when we are insulated or not exposed to those with very different and very un-like-our-lifestyle lives.
Let’s put it this way. When you’ve grown up in a household where a family dance break is one of the multiple choice options to use when things are just too tense or hot-tempered, or one full wall in your den is covered in chalk board so that pretty much anything can be expressed on it, then a lot of things that seem normal in this household might not be all that normal in another one.
So…why then, you ask, what does this have to do with Miley Cyrus?
Well, I thought about it and I think it comes down to the Bubble. Miley Cyrus lives in a world I do now know, understand, touch, come in contact with, experience or see EVER. Just take a look at the front row of the VMA’s and you get a small understanding of the world and bubble the girl circulates in everyday. The clothing, the push to stand out, the large sums of money, the idolization…her world seems so unreal to me and yet I’m quite sure if she were to show up in mine it might actually be a bit scary or off or boring or just not-normal.
My guess is (and I’m only able to guess because I DON’T live in her world) her performance on stage the other night was, simply a part of her normal…securing the media attention that these actions have so successfully accomplished, scheming, dreaming and strategically positioning her as the next big “push the envelope” performer is, I’m assuming, part of her life and the music and entertainment industry bubble.
There has been much condemnation of Miley over the last few days and as the mother to a teen who is trying to help her find HER way without harshly judging, shaming, ridiculing or bullying others, something about all of this attention has me unsettled.
I guess it’s all just a balancing act.
But somewhere in all that balancing, I realize that down deep, there is a teachable moment, that for me and my daughter goes way beneath the obvious. I’m not sure yet what it is, I just know that it’s in there and will surely reveal itself as she and I find our way.
I do know that it got the two of us talking…and when your daughter is fifteen…this is a very, very good thing.