A little late

Apart from feeding Ayesha and ingesting a lovely breakfast with Jeff at Coming Home, oh and there was some laundry in there, I did nothing today. Oh, I did recopy an essay. I’ve never posted it before. I wrote it in November 1998 when I was living in this house the first time.

It’s about Katie. I wrote it during my Artist’s Way course with June Swadron.


There is no grit like the grit of a pre-teen girl. It is a combination of testing her own power and mute ignorance, of not knowing what she is or is not capable of. When I look at my daughter, who turned ten this past week, I see the way she constantly flings herself at life, how she can be so serious and responsible one moment and so goofy and intemperate the next.

Already her downy skin contains a crone. Sometimes she is very patient and wise. Life has already taught her how to choke back fear and grief in case she upsets adults. There are times when things family members have done will make her cry in bed at night, and she won’t say anything for fear of offending.

We tried hard not to hide the good and bad things about adult life from her. I try to stay one step ahead of that agile brain. It’s hard to judge when you’re doing a good job, but every once in a while Kate will do something that will tell me that I’ve not done badly.

When her brother was home sick and I had to work, she kept him hydrated and gave him a wet washcloth and made sure he got some sleep. She’s amazingly sweet to her frail great grandmothers, and when one forgets who she is, she’ll say things like “I’m one of your descendants”, and then her ancestor will ruefully laugh and keep guessing. Katie has the strong stomach of a healer and the keen eye of a naturalist, always looking for something special and interesting on our walks, a western garter snake or a purple mushroom. She is very observant, when it suits her.

And when she decides she wants something or is going to do something, she’s able to show an unearthly tenacity. She has four different volunteer jobs at school. She monitors the kindergarten class during brief teacher absences, she is a library monitor, she’s a crossing guard and two weeks out of four she helps with the lunch program. The first time she described what it’s like on soup day she had me and Paul in hysterics, but she was as serious as anybody gets, talking about a bad day at work.

She didn’t do her math homework the other night and Mr. Tanner, her teacher, suspended her from serving on the lunch program. From her reaction you’d think WWIII had been declared. It was her intention to march into school the next day and tell him to jam it in his ass. Paul and I whipped around, and she smirked delicately at our expressions. “I won’t say it like that!” she said, “I’ll ask him to reconsider.” And he did, and she was reinstated the next day.
I think of the other times she has shown grit, as when, at the age of eight, she watched her beloved cat be anaesthetized to have her teeth cleaned and two extractions. The vet nearly said no. I told him, “This is not an ordinary eight year old girl,” and that I’d whip her out of there in a heartbeat if she caused him the least bit of trouble. She ended up helping the technician.

She shows her grit all kinds of ways, the way she defends her friends and her own rights, and reminds me, sometimes yelling and sometimes very quietly, when I am overstepping my authority. I hate it, but it’s part of my own growth, letting go in the right places and times. I do sometimes wish to be a domestic tyrant, and right now I am the stand in along with her dad for every authority figure who will ever try to injure her for her own good or dominate her for the sake of being able to. If she cannot defend and articulate her rights to me, how limited she’ll be when the big moments come.
They say in teen girls, the grit dies around 12-13 in the face of grim social pressures to ‘feminize’.
I want Katie to have grit forever, even if I have to get a bit ground up myself in the process.

Still feeling rather… you know. Sessile.

Published by


Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

Leave a Reply