Thursday, March 11, 2010

My brother and I have a joke that if any two siblings from our family are within 50 miles of each other...then the 3rd is forced to the outermost edges of North America in order to keep the triangular cosmic balance. This is the reason that my sister, my brother and I have only come together in the same place in 1996, 1997, and 2001. My Wedding, Donnie's College Graduation and Jessie's High School Graduation. We don't tend to congregate much and I sense that we all get wary when forced into family like situations, like rangy low-status wolves anticipating our death match.

I have not untangled my fear of family - My own or others. Some of this fear seems to be a protective measure - my fear based in some infant decision to join or stand apart. I wonder if I observed the infant Dawn if I would note the security of her attachment, as I sometimes think that I fit the reactive profile. The disconnect, the dislike of being touched, the doing better with strangers than family, masked with a great deal of intelligence. A savant who succeeds in spite of her own best efforts because while she is socially inept, the intellect moves her forward.

I once asked my therapist if she thought it was possible I could be a sociopath. This led her - like every therapist in the world - to ask me why I believed I might be a sociopath.

Its hard to explain, really. Some of this question lies in my understanding that I just don't "get" it in the same way other people may understand humans. My ability to observe the behavior of others is most likely a survival trait. My father was unpredictable and my mother had me highly attuned to her every nuance. As such, I can tell you alot about peoples body language and if they are going to be a threat to me. The "normal" stuff - like how to remember to ask about peoples kids or remember birthdays or show interest in peoples health? I suck ASS at that stuff. That circuit just never got switched on in my hyper attuned brain. Telling you the layout of my elementary school in Jacksonville North Carolina? That I can do.

Seeming interested in personal lives of people with whom I am not intimately involved? I can't even fake it. I used to watch the secretary, Angie, at the child care. She was amazing with people. She remembered all sorts of personal details and would ask people about their lives. I was transfixed. Which is why I was not the best manager of people. Want me to plan out strategy? Implement policies? Move towards a vision of quality through sheer force of will? I'm your gal.

Oddly, the other place in which I excel? Being with children. I always fancied it was my lack of artifice that drew children to me. I was a very safe adult. I said exactly what I felt and thought. I didn't hide behind false words or actions. I told a person who was interviewing me for a job once that I didn't soften myself with my children, and I was sorry if she and other adults found me too abrasive, but if Infants and Toddlers could embrace me, it was really her issue if she couldn't.

I didn't get that job.

And now, I see the same patterns emerging in my daughter. She tells me every other day about someone else she considered a friend who was "mean" to her, or otherwise wounded her sensitive self.

Is she alot like her mother? Um, yeah. She is chatty and loud and opinionated. Where I am physically reserved, however, she is effusive. Her sense of being in other people's personal space has never been good and she just doesn't clue in that it is annoying - even when the person is SAYING that she is annoying.

Do I hold myself accountable? Come on. It's a new way to torture myself, of COURSE I hold myself accountable. I fret that if I were more adept socially, she would be too. If I were a normal adult, she would be a more normal kid.

We lay in bed last night, talking about things. Part of the problem, see, is that my kid is VERY like me. She wants to chat about Monty Python. She wants to discuss the Tiffany exhibit we saw last week. Or the Greek Mythology books.

Her peers? They want to discuss Twilight, or The Simpsons or scary movies I won't let her see, nor does she want to see.... Em has no stomach for the scary, and we aren't just a TV watching family. There are a multitude of pop culture references she has no idea about since she is ensconced in this world of Dawn-ness with a hearty splash of Terrance-ness too. The child never stood a chance.

To reassure her that people will "get" her later in life is really not enough. I remember how badly I wanted to be like other kids at her age. So, I do what I do in all situations that I don't quite understand...I research them. I turn to books. I make a plan of research attack. How and what to observe. what I plan to do with that information once I have amassed it.

This time, however, I am teaching her my method. We started the book "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship" last night. While it was written as an advice book for parents, she and I are reading it together. As we finished "The Different Drummer" section last night, I gave her homework for today. Observe. Figure out what things people seem to like and then we will strategize as to how to find things she likes and intersect the two. The goal isn't to change Emily - I like my quirky sweet girl who still loves her Playmobil at almost 12 and can chat with you about the River Styx.

The goal is for her to figure out how to manage the puzzling world of social interactions, while still fully knowing herself. Maybe I will finally figure it out too.

3 Baleful Regards:

Jennifer said...

It's great what you are doing with Emily. :)

As I was reading through your description of yourself and you wondering if you're a psychopath (pshaw!)... I couldn't help but think Asperger's... Not saying you are (although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express! {hope you get the reference}), but it did come to mind.

Carrie said...

You just described me to a T! You're not the only one out there that can remember the weirdest things but has to remind herself to ask someone how his or her family is doing. And, oddly enough, I also excel with children. It's funny, I have all the patience in the world with children but very little for adults. I love that you are working with your daughter to help her find a way to be herself but to also understand social complexities better than you or I did.

Dawn said...

Jennifer, I've thought it - except that I am TOO perceptive of others behaviors.

The best news? Emily is using some of the "Rules" and they seem to be helping. We go over the scenerios from the book and discuss whether or not she is reacting TOO much, or perhaps misinterpreting. It helped her calm down from a huge ass hissy fit she was pitching when she believed her friends that she wanted to come over on Saturday were personally ditching her...only to come to terms with the issue that she never really invited them, or let them know she wanted them to come over, so Calling them on Saturday afternoon and expecting them to be free was a Bit Much.

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