My darling girl

In search of a sense of place

A story of difference.

A child, unsure and shy of herself. She covers her face in moments of pride, embarrassment and uncertainty.

I see so much of myself in her, yet there is something new about this girl.

It is said that the act of care influences behaviours, traditions and customs. Care can often be hidden and discrete yet require trust, vulnerability and relationship. It is not limited to transactions. Some would say that the act of care is to worry, to be concerned and interested in something or someone. It is not to be reduced to physical acts of caregiving.

Care of children requires a language. One that helps weaves a path through an often painful journey of youth. To find joy, spirit and strength. To see all of the difficult stuff and still consider care for those around you.

My darling girl, 11 years of age is busy peeling back the layers of learning that come with growing up. Spending much of her day trying to understand, be seen and to make sense of her place in the world. She says her life is sometimes like being in a room where everything is too small and everyone is too big and the only way for everyone to fit in is to shrink down as small as possible.

Moving countries during the height of COVID and settling into a new school does leave a mark. There is residue. Barely visible to the outside eye but as her mother, I can see its trace. A little unsure, shy of herself and sensitive to her environment. Desperately seeking her tribe and her sense of place at the cusp of of puberty.

In youth, there is a need to search for a sense of place. It’s an essential part of cognitive, social, and emotional development. It comes from a deep need to connect.

When you are new somewhere, there is always the feeling of being an outsider. It is familiar to me for a million different reasons. One that I often take for granted. And yet I know that for her, that feeling of difference isn’t always welcome. From a different place, in a different home, with a different set up, different friends, different likes and dislikes. There is so much to feel different for in a new place. And still she strives to connect and to care. To remain different but to find a sense of belonging.

She is preparing herself for her next adventure in secondary school. A larger space but which will also offer the chance to find a tribe.

We are tracing how we connect with this place, our home, our people, our family and our cousins. Some alive, some long gone and some very disconnected.

In a moment of kismet, we discovered that some of my mothers family are buried at the cemetery close to the school. We joked about G visiting her great great grandmother Bridget Reynolds Monaghan whose final resting place is at the cemetery. A woman with a great sense of purpose and place in her community.

I wondered, perhaps she will help with the watchful presence of G as she steps into a bigger space and hopefully does not shrink herself small.

Bridget Reynolds Monaghan- short haired