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