Monday, May 17, 2010

A birthday gift of maturity

I don't write a lot about J-bear anymore.

Not because there isn't something to say, but mostly because I get tired of being beaten over the head for being "anti-lesbian." My friends -- both real-life and online -- know how off-base that is, but that doesn't stop the blistering comments and personal emails blasting my "attitudes" and "hypocrisy" when I write about her.

It even has been suggested that I should find a "lesbian-friendly" therapist to help me work out my issues.


So instead, I take the lesser road -- and just don't say much.

But this past week, she hit a milestone that I wanted to acknowledge. Last Friday, she turned 20.

Good-bye, teenage years. Hello, twentysomething!

This young woman has come a long way, baby, over the almost 10 years I have known her and the almost seven years she has lived full-time under my roof.

Right before her 18th birthday, I wrote something about her that I would like to reprint here. A tale of how far she has come, edited to bring it up to date.

Until she moved into her own apartment, she had lived exclusively with us since she was 13, when she was halfway through the eighth grade. Her choice. A decision made after an earthquake in the city where she lived with her mother fuh-reaked her out beyond all reason.

Now you have to understand about J-bear. She was -- in my unprofessional opinion -- clinically shy and monstrously introverted. The first time I saw her -- not MET her, mind you, but SAW her -- she was about 10 and hiding behind her father at a chorus function.

That position turned out to be commonplace. She couldn't look anyone in the eye -- not grownups, not kids. She reminded me of a frightened bunny, never really able to step too far away from the comforting aura of her dad.

When she first came to live with us, she was a frightened loner. The Roo-girl, four years her junior, was really her only friend. In fact, she would follow Roo to play with HER friends.

She would wear hoodie sweatshirts -- with the hood up around her head and her face pulled back into its recesses as far as it would go. It became a trademark look that made her highly recognizable on campus. Her father and I refused to buy sweatshirts with hoods at one point.

She was behind in her social skills. She was behind in her emotional growth. She was behind in her academics.

Before she came to live with us, I exacted a promise from her father AND from her mother -- that I would have their permission to do what I saw fit to help this child recover from the trauma of the earthquake AND get her on track socially, emotionally and academically.

I felt uniquely qualified to take J-bear on as a project since I had fought the school system successfully for a variety services for my two older boys and had some valuable experience and knowledge to offer.

I required therapy, which had not been offered to her to this point. I offered tutoring. In fact, that first summer before she started high school, I worked with her a minimum of three hours a night on her daily summer school homework. I took her shopping for her first bra. I, along with Wonderhubby, provided a noisy, family-filled environment where she had to learn to share her father and cope with four insta-siblings and the tumult that comes with.

Today, J-bear is a confident young woman, with friends, a high school diploma, a black belt in karate, a responsible job and the ability to walk into a room and -- while not completely comfortable -- fake it so that you don't see her fear.

She stands tall, my J-bear does. And I truly do believe that her father and I have done an amazing job of guiding the little scared bunny through some tough times and out the other side.

And in honor of her 20th birthday, I would like to help her move into her next decade here as well.

J-bear was a name I picked for her based on a childhood nickname. Today, she's entitled to something a little more mature, but I don't know what that should be.

And so I ask you to help me. What should we call her? Leave a suggestion in the comments. I will pick the ones I like the best and let you vote on them.

So ... what do you say?

Crossposted at Mid-Century Modern Moms


Jenni said...

Whenever I see a kid like J was, I feel for them because, although I may not have been quite that shy and afraid, I was so close. (Maybe I just never had anyone to hide behind.) You have made such a huge difference in J's life. Your love for that scared little girl is what helped her become the confident young woman she is today. As parents we don't always thrill over our children's choices, but our job is to love them anyway. You are a fine example in that regard.

As for a new nickname, I don't have any ideas. Maybe something to do with karate?

Siobhan said...

Janet, I always knew you were amazing, this just solidifies it.

I dunno, I kinda like J-Bear. I'll defo have to think about it.

Roger said...

Siobhan has a point - in that there really isn't anything wrong with J-Bear.

Kaytabug said...

Okay, here's my 2
J-Hawk and Sensei J

Simply Jenn said...

I SAY... I say.... well, hell- you know what I say? I say I can't freaking believe that anyone- internet or ANYWHERE believes that you are anti-lesbian! Are you fuhreaking kidding me? Can I kick them? Hard? Like REALLY hard? What a load of crap. I want to hurt people for you. Let me at 'em!

I have no name though, my creativity is used up in anger currently.

Carolie said...

Congratulations to J-bear, Wonderhubby and you for such progress!

As for nicknames, here are some thoughts:

Something to do with her quest to know herself and grow (Seeker, Quester)

Something to do with her body modifications (Tattoo Girl, The Pierced One)

Something to do with her strength and her karate (Kick-ass, K.O. Girl, Karate Kid)

Or hey -- she could be Wonderwoman, as she's Wonderhubby's flesh-and-blood, AND she's kick-ass with the karate, AND she's grown so much and come so far from the shy rabbit that it's a real wonder, AND it ends with an adult word rather than a child word (woman rather than girl) like your three adult sons have either Man or King on their names...?

Tara R. said...

J-Bear is only about a year younger than my oldest... she sounds like a truly amazing young woman.

I agree with Siobhan too. I still like J-Bear. What does she say?

kiwibird said...

Congratulations to J-Bear on achieving not only the age of majority (at least where I am) but also having come so far.

Janet - you have done a fantastic job with this wonderful young woman and it is with your understanding and support she reaches this milestone in such a whole and stable state. Well done to you and all your family on bringing a shy young girl out of herself and turning her into the witty, warm and wonderful young woman that you write about.

I have to say that I like Wonderwoman for her, but also J-bear is a wonderful warm name that I think transcends ages.

Joanna said...

Can.not.believe someone has the nerve to give you crap! They must be new to the blog. When you pour your everything into someone - you want to know it wasn't for nothing, ya know?

How about Karate Queen?

Pamela said...

I didn't know you got that "anti" stuff.

There sure are some strange people out there.

I'm glad you are sticking with J-Bear. There is nothing wrong with being a "bear!"

Bears run from trouble most of the time, but they will fight it out if its important. Thats the way we all should be.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really seem like you need a lesbian-friendly therapist, but a queer-friendly therapist, as you seem equally dismissive, patronising, and insulting toward your two boys as you do this girl.

Simply Jenn is perfectly welcome to come kick the queer though, but there's a lot of what you write in your own description that is painful to read as a queer person. I get that you think that you're supportive and all that. You're not as supportive as you and your straight friends seem to think, however.

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