By Dana Gornall
It’s no secret. Anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a Wonder Woman fan.
As a kid growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I would sit on my family’s brown, cracked vinyl couch in my nightgown, donning the blue plastic Wonder Woman bracelets with a red star sticker on each—the corner of one peeling back a little—and watch mesmerized as Lynda Carter flashed her smile, leapt to the top of buildings and every single time saved the day. Glancing down at my frail 7 year old body with freckles spotting my arms, I hoped one day I would be just like her, in some sort of way, somehow.
I think this Wonder Woman complex has stuck with me deep in my consciousness because I still want to save the day, or the world or something like that. This mindset has breached far and wide into everything I do, but mostly I see it in my parenting style.
It’s easy to save the day when they are little. Fall down? A hug, a kiss on the boo-boo or top of the head, a joke to make them smile again and a short rocking back and forth in the rocking chair with their tear streaked face nestled in my neck quickly erases all of the pain. Even in elementary school it wasn’t that difficult to be Wonder Mom. Forget your lunch? I can run it over. Struggling with that book report? Let’s look at it together and we can walk through all of the important parts.
The teenage years… Now these are the years that challenge all of my superhero capabilities and make me realize I am not so super after all. The teenage years are my kryptonite.
Suddenly my sweet children have been replaced by mood swinging, roller coaster riding, risky behavior attempting alien-like people who would much rather spend their time alone in their rooms than to have much to do with me. I get it—I was a teenager myself at one time so I know this is normal. Yet, what I wasn’t prepared for was the complete helplessness I would be left feeling when I could no longer just swoop in and fix the next problem that popped up.
The teenage years are a bridge from childhood to adulthood; them testing out their wings in order to fly. I can use every metaphor in the book and more, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the consequences of their wings not working correctly or choosing the wrong places to test said wings are much larger and more dangerous than a trip on the pavement.
I can no longer kiss their boo boos and rock the tears away. So, what now?
Those of you who have gone through this phase of parenting and survived are all probably nodding your heads and smiling a little. You have been through it, and probably have the battle scars to prove it. We all know those parents who have much larger battle scars—those with eyes that have darker circles and stories to match, those who have been through the fire a little longer and walked away a bit more burned than others.
What is a mama with a Wonder Woman complex supposed to do?
Sitting down the other night feeling frustrated and as though a piece of me had been scooped out and dropped along side my feet, I picked up a book written by Mark Epsetin. He has helped me see things differently in the past and I was searching for something—anything—that would shed even a drop of light on my current situation. In it he re-told a story, which he had read in Jack Kornfield’s book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. It’s a story of a Muslim man who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
A friend came to visit and smuggled him a present, a prayer rug. The jailed man was disappointed, he did not want a prayer rug, he wanted a hacksaw or knife or something. But after some time he decided to make use of the rug, studying the beautiful and intricate patterns as he did his daily prayers. One day he started to see an interesting pattern in the rug, a diagram of the internal mechanism of the lock to his cell. He picked the lock and was free. Like the man in jail, everything we need is right in front of us. We just need to learn to see.
~ Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change by Mark Epstein, MD.
Thinking on that story for awhile, I could see I needed to look at things a little differently. The issue was, I just wasn’t sure how quite yet. Like those paintings and prints that were popular some many years ago that looked like blurry messes of colors where people would stand back and stare at for awhile until the picture came into focus, I figured I would need to step back and try to do the same. Truthfully, I have never been very good at those pictures; always impatient, wanting the image to become clear, I would eventually walk away frustrated.
But that was a long time ago.
Now, as I march forward into newer terrain, unsure and awkward, I wonder if the path outward is somewhere inscribed in places I just haven’t looked. Working toward new approaches, learning when to push forward and when to step back, guessing and sometimes getting it right, and other times getting it wrong.
Only time will tell, I suppose. I stand by, fists resting on my hips, no blue plastic bracelets with peeling stars. I wait and hope as my children spread those wings, they don’t fall. But if they do, I will be there.
“There are times when faith is all we have to rely upon.” — Wonder Woman
Editor: Alicia Wozniak