I would like to think that our parents raised us well. Among us three kids, however, I think my parents had the hardest time raising me. I am not so sure if by default the middle kid is the problem child, or maybe it’s just me. Among us, it was me who they found hardest to understand, and the hardest to contain especially when I reached my teenage years. Between both parents, it was harder for my mom. And so, with my fantasies of time-travel, I have written a letter which I want to give to her, in case I could go back to the day that I was born. It is sort of a guideline just so it would be better for her to understand me while I am growing up. Warning: If we are used to the usual blog standards in terms of word count, this can be quite a long read. This is again, one of those attempts at self-psychoanalysis/self-therapy.
Congratulations on your baby girl, who you have named Rhea Pauline, and who you will nickname as “Iya.” Although she will always wish you named her after her grandmother Electa (who, by the way, you will notice in the future, has the same demeanor as hers), Rhea Pauline will do. (But of course, if you still can change it, please name her Electa, please? Or add one letter: Electra)
I am giving you this letter because this small baby, this small brownbaby can be quite a challenge as she grows up. So think of this as a gift: it is some sort of a “manual” on how you would raise her. So there will be no nights when you will be worried sick about your teenage daughter’s days-long disappearance (after, perhaps, running away). So you won’t have to ask her several times, in sheer frustration, Why can’t you just be happy? Is it that hard being happy? during those days in her adolescent years when her brooding (that would go on for days, even weeks) is making everyone in the family extremely worried.
I have divided this letter into different segments, into issues that may have an impact in her life in the long run. I hope these would not shock you, but I am giving you a look into how she thinks as she grows up. It’s like a backstage pass to her mind.
(More of this long letter after the fold. )
Her brown skin
Oh. I can see that you are quite disappointed. She is not as “white” as you wanted to be. She is brown-skinned, which is OK for you if she was a boy. But considering that you came from a family where the women are fair-skinned, Spanish beauties, you REALLY want her to have the same color as yours: that “white” skin is your standard of beauty.
If you continue with being discontented by the color that she is born with, you would (when she’s around six or seven) spend hours in
the bathroom scrubbing bleaching soaps on her (which she would interpret as you trying to erase her); when in malls where you will be trying to pick up clothes for her, you would look at her with sheer frustration as that nth dress couldn’t seem to fit her brown skin. She wouldn’t say so as a young child, but she would sense your frustration; she would, at times, keep herself from crying every time you try to pick a dress for her. Oh how she would dread being taken to the mall whenever the agenda is to shop for a dress that would fit her.
And it won’t help that some of her male cousins would make fun of her complexion, and she would be hurt by this. And it won’t help, either, that in grade school, the boys would make fun of her as well (there would even be a point when these boys would nominate her as class muse, because they think it’s funny seeing a dark-skinned, skinny waif, lined up with the white-skinned, healthy-looking beauties). She would not go to you for help, though. She would think that you just might agree what her “tormentors” are saying about her: that she is dark therefore she is ugly. She would, however, come up with her own coping mechanisms: hide in the closet for hours, or do better than those boys in school (and being competitive with the opposite sex, it seems, is something that she would take with her when she grows up). Although she may never come to you for solace in these dark times during childhood, it is best that you constantly assure her that she is a beautiful and wonderful little kid. It is important because you wouldn’t want her to grow up with so much self-loathing. It is important because, as she grows older, as she starts to “bloom” (a point when she has accepted that there is nothing wrong with her brown color) people would give her compliments on how beautiful they think she is, and she would treat these compliments with so much cynicism, with so much hatred. Sometimes, she would even push people away. Especially men.
You have to understand, and I think you would notice this, that she can easily appreciate people. This appreciation comes mostly from her fascination on how others’ minds work: and this is usually regardless of their appearance or gender.
As someone with strict Catholic background, you cannot accept this. It would be hard for you to digest this, so she would never ever tell you this.
As a child, she would not find anything wrong with this. She thinks it is OK for her to like boys and girls. She thinks it is normal, because she never really identified herself to being a boy or being a girl. But this will be especially tough for her during puberty. Very, very tough. During puberty, during those changes in her body, during those times when she feels like her body is starting to define her as female, she would realize that she cannot go on forever as someone “in between.” At this age, she is already fully aware of the teachings from her strict Catholic upbringing (including being educated in Catholic schools from the very start), telling her that liking both boys and girls is a sin. This would make her think that her existence is an abomination. This would further her self-loathing. Puberty would be among the darkest times of her life. You will start noticing her falling into, what you think, unexplainable bouts of depression (which eventually would turn into years of rebellion).
It is important that you make her feel that nothing is wrong with her. That she is not an abomination. That God doesn’t hate her for what she is born with. That you accept her no matter what she is. That her all-girl Catholic school can kick out/suspend all the high school girls who are discovered to have a relationship with another girl, but they can never dictate who she can like and love. It is important that you make her feel that it’s all going to be OK, and that society will eventually embrace the likes of her, the “in-betweens.”
In the near future, you will be mystified as to how so much emotions, massive ones, can fit into such a small frame. As an adult, she will have that same perplexity. She will ask you several times if there was anything you did while you were pregnant with her that was different from while you were pregnant with her siblings.
Although there is no point in finding out where it came from, it is best that you find ways to channel this intensity. Otherwise, it can be very destructive.
There will be certain points in her life that she would feel like her emotions are consuming so much of her energy. You see, often times she does not have control over what she is feeling: it clouds her thinking, it makes her push people away, cut people off her life, or worse, it makes her find ways to deaden her emotions. That last one can prove to be very dangerous: in situations that are just too much for her to bear, she would jump into another situation that would overpower the former. It is like self-mutilation, but with bigger consequences, and scars that are more permanent than blade marks on her skin.
I can only imagine how frightened you are upon reading this. Yes, she can be frightening, but no, this is not without a solution. As what I’ve mentioned earlier, the best way to address this is to help her find ways upon which she could channel this intensity. Temper that heat with interests that can ground her. I’ll tell you as early as now that she is going to love writing. It is best that you start her really early. Oh, please do. That way, she will not be easily intimidated by it. Yes, writing can intimidate her. Especially in college. When she has taken up journalism as her course, she would secretly want to take creative writing as a side course. But she won’t. Those from the creative writing class would intimidate her – they are, after all, a group of students who think that everyone else’s writing is inferior compared to theirs. But Iya will regret this. She will regret not taking creative writing classes, and until she is an adult, she would wish she could still take it. But she would still be burdened by her self-doubt. So, it is best, and it is very important, that very early on in life, you encourage her. Expose her to the writers in the newspaper that you work for (believe me, in the future, some of them will become legends). Who knows what she can be capable of in terms of writing if only you started her off really early.
Lastly, I would like you to know, that no matter how you will raise her, no matter how many quarrels you will have with her in the future, she will love you immensely. There won’t be a single day, a single hour, a single millisecond that she would want to replace you as her mother: with all her heart, she would think that you are the best one a daughter can have. And as she grows older, she will be drawn closer to you, and would protect you from anyone who would hurt you. Oh, if you know how feisty she can be, people would be frightened to lay a hand on you, or speak ill of you. She is a closeted mama’s girl, and she is very lucky to have you.
That’s it for now. Till we meet again in the future.