Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Life Story: Observations of a Teenager

My mom filled out a questionnaire about me for my young women church group when I was a seventeen, it says:

What are Courtney's special personality traits?
Volatile! Temperamental! Funny. Honest. Extremely Intelligent and Sensitive.

What does Courtney add to your family as an individual?
We call her Pitiful Pearl. Life is Courtney is one crisis after another. But she's good to her little sisters and takes them everywhere with her. She has great friends and we love having them to our house.

What are her talents?
She writes wonderful poetry and great editorials.

The same year I went to a church youth conference where we were placed in solitude for an hour and instructed to read letters from our parents, this one my dad wrote:

My Dear Courtney,
I know you are just laughing at this whole program--especially these letters from parents. But since I have to do it and you have time on your hands here is something to read.
I admire your determination especially when it comes to school and educational achievements. I think you have a warm personality--even though we don't always see it--but I've seen your sweetness. You are a beautiful girl with beautiful skin and hair and a curvy body. But most of all we love you because you're you and you add a special difference to our family. Hold on to the principles you know to be right. Stay close to your Heavenly Father. We love you and have all the trust in the world for you.
Your Dad

From my sister Stephanie, four years younger:

I think are the coolest person! You have every boyfriend in the world you are lucky I think you are very pretty.

Steph always observed my range of deeply felt emotions and I think it scared her a little. Whenever I'd have an emotive episode I'd find little notes on my bed at night. We've established that she is the dreamer in our relationship, I'm the one who cries.


Ashley said...

Often when people are speaking about us, they are in reality speaking of themselves.

There is a tendency to want to pigeon hole kids in to the molds that we are comfortable with. This is my happy kid, this is my serious kid, etc...

It's a shame that we weren't allowed to just BE.

More honest feeling and writing from you...bravo.

C. Jane said...

I am working so very hard on that as a mother. Just BE.

Thanks Ashley, your ideas are always pinching my mind and making me think.

Hannah Mudge said...

In that picture you can really see the resemblance between you and Stephanie :)

Lee said...

I don't mean this to be insulting, but why was your family so focused on your weight? They obviously were great parents, I'm just curious as to why your weight was something that your parents always mention and focused on. Like in your Dads letter it seems he is saying I love you despite your weight. Not just I love you. Or is it just your own insecurities highlighting these moments in your life? I hope you will explain this relationship in up coming post. Either way, you are thee most glamorous person I have yet to come across! Rock on! :)

Emilie said...

I came from a family hell bent on labeling their kids. 'the smart one', 'the funny one', etc. I am trying as hard as possible, as a parent, to stop the labeling and allowing them to share talents and passions and also just have value in existing.

Parenting isn't about what a child contributes to you and your life and your home. Children shouldn't have to do anything to enrich your life. Your job is to enrich THEIRS.

Glad we all get a chance to choose our own path as parents.

ClaireM said...

The pics of you that are accompanying your life story posts remind me of Joy Nash's Fat Rant video where she says 'why didn't anyone tell me how cute I was!'. I spent my teenage years thinking I was fat (and receiving those subtle cues from my parents) and now when I see those pics i see that I not only was cute but skinny as well.

Mary & Marc said...

I admire your parents for including all of the facets of you, not just a sugar coated commentary. The problem is, in reading this as an adult, I am certain you probably feel judged. I think as a parent we all struggle with assessing our kids without being to harsh or judgemetal. On the other end, I see parents all around me telling their kids how great they are all the time, and we are going to end up with a world full of narcissist, but that is a whole other subject. I think we toe a very delicate line where it comes to self esteem building in our kids...but telling them how great they are does not great self esteem make.

Jennifer said...

Pitiful pearl? one crisis after another? I think you have a warm personality-even though we don't always see it?

And then to make up for that at least you take your younger sisters everywhere with you and you have a beautiful body, skin and hair.

Wow, wow, wow.

My admiration for you grows.

Townhouse Towny said...

Isn't it funny how the people we love seem incapable of describing us or talking to us about ourselves without adding in their digs and our imperfections? I'm not even saying that its wrong, it just yanks at my heart a little, though I'm sure I'll do the same, like I get it Mom/Dad, I was a pain as a child/teenager, got the message. Grudging compliments just burn a little, I winced reading these. For all the spoiled praised brats out there I think there are 1,000 sensitive souls that could use a little reminder that they are doing a wonderful job navigating the world.

Leisha Mareth said...

I love your Mom and Dad's humor. Humor is the only way I will survive the teenage years with my children.

I also love that your father complimented your looks and body (I took curvy as a compliment not a weight reference...) All fathers should take note of that, is very important!

Lindsey Harris said...

Dang Courtney, you're a bombshell now, and you were a bombshell then. You are so beautiful and I look forward to your life story posts every single day. Thanks for being my favorite blogger and sharing so much with us. It's inspired me more than I can express. The posts have made me laugh, made me teary-eyed, and have really made me think. You are so wonderful!

Natalie said...

Your blog has been something that has helped me these past few weeks... thank you.

Celeste said...

what did i miss? i didn't see anything wrong with what your folks wrote. it was balanced. descriptive of you, as they saw it. complimentary.
i don't get it.
the fact that your folks wrote something is more than what i had. wish my folks even had a thought or care about me.
could someone tell me what perfect looks like? i don't think it exists on this side of eternity.

Sierra said...

Um, I sort of feel like we are the same person. Haha.
However, I think it's important to remember that we often point out the "real" attributes of the people we love the most to remind them that we love them NO MATTER WHAT. Even when they seem to be at their worst.

Oh, Just Living the Dream

Unknown said...

I love the note your Dad wrote. I wish my Dad had been as caring, or shown interest in me, or noticed my talents, or made me feel pretty.

Your Mom seems pretty great too, like she really knew you.

Bits and Pieces of Me...Emily! said...

Hello Gorgeous! That is a beautiful picture! :) Oh those youth conference letters. Did everyone have one of those? I liked your Dad's letter. I thought is was sweet. And a typical father to daughter letter.

c. A. Conrad said...

Good god I wish I had a body like that. I'm not fat but my weight fills my body disproportionately.

Vanessa said...

This is making me think a lot about parenting and the whole "labeling" our kids...made me think of this...

I don't love EVERYTHING that this guy has to say (Hal Runkel author of Scream Free Parenting) but I do love one of his main points...let me find it from his website.

Why should we avoid attaching labels to our children? Why does becoming a ScreamFreetm Parent mean taking a very hard look at our own anxiety-driven need to label our child’s tendencies and predict our child’s destiny? Whenever we label our kids (a good girl, a follower, smart, athletic, pretty, sweet, a troublemaker), it is always borne out of our anxious need to predict and categorize. Somehow it helps us feel a little better whenever we can attach some known category. That way we feel as if we “know” our child like no one else.

What we miss is how powerful those labels can be in actually restricting our child’s space to be anything different. A child who’s labeled smart has to always live up to that (and cannot make a mistake). A child labeled a troublemaker continues to behave so because everyone around him begins to expect it.

In his book he also says...

Whenever we label our children, we severely limit their space.....The way we label things, explain things, etc. to our children “shapes your world and the worlds of each of your children......By placing limits on our own freedom, we thereby create and honor theirs. When it comes to our language, especially the words we use about our children, we again need to limit our freedom. We simply do to much talking about them. Too much comparison. Too much categorization. Too much prognostication. And it’s time to stop.....we need to take a very hard look at our own anxiety-driven need to label our child’s tendencies and predict our child’s destiny.

Sorry those are long quotes but I am very glad I read this book as a brand new mom & knew right away that it was very important to keep a close eye on.

Maureen said...

I thought the letters and description refreshing and funny.. we all label one another and most teenagers are moody and temperamental and drama queens, I was, a few of my girls were and we laugh about it now, sometimes if we look to hard to find the negative we will..
Your parents raised some amazing and very talented children (or so it seems) I think they knew what they were doing.

First Mate said...

Sounds like you and I had/have the same temperament . You are lucky to have parents who would be so honest in their description of you.
Meanwhile, what up with the gorgeous dress? You look fabulous and oh so happy. Please share the story....

I am LoW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I am LoW said...

Were they right? If so, then i don't get what is so wrong here. Is it labeling, or truth?

Lilly said...

I think your family's 'take' on you is wonderful. Not sure why people are reading more into it then there is. Your mother thought you were a passionate, intelligent, creative, sensitive girl and a wonderful writer. And maybe just a touch dramatic (don't know any teenage girls who weren't). And your father says you were intelligent, determined, a high achiever, beautiful and curvy (why do people think this means fat - look at you in that photo, va boom stunning) and you added a special difference to the family. In a family of nine hat took some doing. Wow. And, I bet they would say the same about you now.

Also, just one thing in response to your previous post. You are who you are. Do not take on board the criticisms of perfect strangers who may be 1% of those reading your blog. Strangely, they still read your blog in order to go onto another website to dig the boot in. You are in excellent company. In fact, I think a blogger must know they have made it when they end up on that site with their very own topic in the discussion forum. Only change because its the right thing for you and yours. We are all human, never forget it. Turn the other cheek and move foreward. It's called the tall poppy syndrome or blogger envy.

Tracee said...

I was a middle child, so perhaps that was my problem. I was always labeled by my parents. Never quite as great as my older brother...nor as needy as my sick little sister. I was always told that my feelings were "wrong". And they wonder why I moved so far away and don't visit often.

I have a 10 year daughter we adopted from China as an infant. She is one gorgeous girl. Smart as a whip. Straight A's all through elementary! She's been a little chubby for about a year and while we initially just felt it was a phase, we did become concerned because of some food habits she has picked up. We decided to make changes as a family. We make sure we all eat together, no electronics at the table, we make her slow down and put her fork down between bites, we make her talk to us (torture!), and then we all clean the kitchen together. She has also started helping her dad mow the lawn and she and her dad play racquetball a few days a week.

I don't want to her to fixate on her body...but if we make adjustments as a family, we will all benefit!!

Creole Wisdom said...

Maybe it's my paradigm but "curvy" does not equate to "fat" or "overweight." When I think curvy I think hourglass figure, and not shaped like a stick. Anyway, I think your dad was complimenting you, because if anyone said that to me I would take it as a compliment!

I think most teens (at least I was) are a bit volatile etc... It takes so much time and a few years to work all those hormones out. Completely normal.

Parents make mistakes. Your parents loved you even if they made mistakes and love heals all.

Brambleberry said...

Your honesty in this series has changed the way I parent. I thank you.

ltk said...

i don't want to demonize your father--he sounds like a great man and I think we as a society have learned a lot (and still need to learn more) about the effect of seemingly innocuous comments about a person's body size on their psyche--especially when they are children/adolescents. This is all a prelude to my comment that I find it a little odd/uncomfortable that your father commented on you being "curvy". I think it is an inappropriate comment ( a little too sexy a term I guess) for a father to make but I know my own father crossed the line as well with his comments on his daughters physiques and did so unintentionally.
On another note--two of my children are in their teens and I do find myself sometimes commenting on how wonderful and sweet I now they are EVEN though we don't always get to see it and other such comments because the teen years do bring a fair amount of attitude from even the best of kids. Looking back on those type of comments they can look like a back handed compliment or too negative but when you are living through those years as a parent it is hard not to sound like that.
By the way, I hope you are feeling better and less stressed out.

dmarie said...

okay...i thought i was the only one. i thought dad commenting on the "curvy" figure was just a touch inappropriate. i would have withered and died if my dad ever said anything like that to me at that age. my parents were honest in their assessments of me, too, but the positives came before the negatives. in my parenting, i try to remember to stroke before i poke!

Amy said...

Look how spunky and beautiful you are!

Christy (mcbowersox) said...

Since I read your post yesterday the letters from your parents have just bugged me. I know they meant well, and I certainly don't question their love for you. But I just couldn't help but think about how those words would sound to the heart of a young girl. If it had been me, the criticisms would have been all I heard. And in my life, those are the things that have stuck with me unfortunately.

But it just blows my mind when I look at that gorgeous picture of you that anyone could consider that "curvy." Huh? All I see when I look at that picture is a beautiful and petite teenage girl. Petite I said!! Good grief!

How are we, as women, supposed to ever have a healthy body image when we're met with criticism and harshness (albeit unintended) from such a young age?

I love your blog and read everything you post! Don't be too hard on yourself and don't let others be hard on you either!

Lee said...

In rereading my comment I think I may have been to harsh on your Dads comment. I was just remembering past post and how your weight is always being brought up by your parents. I don't think your Dad is calling you fat, I'm just wondering why it is so important. You even said in past post that your mom focused on your weight and even gave a list of examples from your baby book. I guess I'm combining a bunch of post and just made the connection here. Sorry if my comment did not come of right.