I have been fascinated watching Missa B over the past 7 weeks.
Right before my eyes, she is evolving into a more outgoing, more confident young woman. Yes, her birthday is Monday (we have been reminded daily of the countdown since the start of the trip), so some of it is simply that she is maturing. But I have a hunch a lot of it has to do with what she is experiencing.
Let me set the record straight. Missa B is outgoing…when she wants to be. Reminders to look people in the eye when talking to them, however, are not foreign to her. Or reminders to smile when talking to people and to let them know she is interested in what they have to say (or sometimes fake it a bit when necessary).
And she is extremely confident. This is the girl who, after all, intends to go to Stanford on a basketball or volleyball scholarship and then join the FBI. Or become the President of the United States. She hasn’t quite decided yet. But, she is the same girl who won’t ask where a
bathroom toilet is located.
Case in point. Early in the trip, we were in England on the motorway when we heard the usual call of, “When is the next stop? I drank way too much water!” For Missa B, once she decides this, it becomes a desperate situation (in her mind) within about a minute. She will pretty much ask us/harass us continuously until we find a place to stop.
So, we stopped and decided to get
gas petrol at the same time. And Missa B would not get out of the car. We kept telling her she needed to go in and find the toilet, but she wouldn’t. She finally went in, and then came right back out saying she didn’t see a toilet. We told her to ask. She wouldn’t. When we got really annoyed, she begged her brother to go with her (we were both doing things with the car and couldn’t go immediately). He, of course, did. And, it turns out, he (although he is 2 years younger), did the asking for her. Which is pretty typical. Generally, he becomes her voice when interacting with strangers.
At least that’s what used to happen even just a few weeks ago.
But pretty much for the past 7 weeks, Missa B has had to interact with strangers. The only people she has known for the past 7 weeks have been me, Hubs, and JJ. And that is where we’ve seen things begin to evolve.
I first noticed it in places like Blists Hill when we went into the Victorian-era stores. It started with Terry, the plaster-of Paris artist. She liked hearing his story and listened intently. He noticed, and when she eyed a piece that her mom told her we couldn’t get (there has to be a villain in every story), he gave it to her. And she gave him one of her best smiles and biggest thank you’s. And then, after we left the shop, she decided she wanted to send him postcards from the trip. So, she went back and asked him for his address. By herself.
She was also very interested in the blacksmith. We visited his shop, and we talked with him a bit. Later, we were waiting for a train ride near the shop, and she went back in on her own. When I came to get her about 5 minutes later, she was fully engaged in a conversation with the blacksmith and gave him a huge smile and wave when we left.
As we meet B&B owners, I watch her interact with them. I see her look them directly in the eye when introduced, greet them, and give that smile that lights up her entire face. She engages with the people we meet, and you can see she knows they have a story to tell and is hoping to learn it.
And, now she wants to please people. Now, believe me, I have never wanted to raise a child who feels they have to please people. But I do want to raise a child who wants to be a bigger part of her surroundings, who wants to work well within society, and who wants to get along with others.
What I am seeing is a girl who wants people to see her as kind and helpful. Her “thank-you’s” now come completely unsolicited and are fully genuine. She is starting to go out of her way to thank people — even going so far as using her own money to tip street entertainers she really enjoys. She wants people to know she appreciates what they do for her.
I’m seeing a girl who brings in her breakfast plate to the B&B grandma and is praised for being so helpful. A girl who then the next day brings in all of our plates just so the grandma will be proud of her. And continues to do so every morning. A girl who beams when, at the end of the stay, is told by that same family that she and her brother are “cherubs” and that they could be brought anywhere because they are so polite and helpful.
And I see a pre-teen who, yesterday, told her brother not to come with her when she needed to ask the store owner for change. In French. And who, today, asked the restaurant server where the toilets were located. In French.
“Mom…he told me in French, and I didn’t understand a word he said. Luckily for me, he used his hands to talk as well, and I only saw one door. So, I tried it. And I was right!”
And she beamed as she told me.
But I don’t think she beamed because she found the toilet. I think she beamed because she found a confidence she didn’t even know she had been missing.