Gosh, there is so much to say about my Julia.
She was my first girl and the second love of my life. She’s Julia the brave, Julia the escape artist, Julia the wanderer, Julia the destroyer, Julia the anxious, Julia the maternal, Julia the savior of bugs, Julia the gymnast… She’s a beauty with to-die-for curls, her dad’s long black eyelashes, flawless naturally tan skin, plump lips and big blue eyes the size of saucers.
How such incredible bravery can coexist with such intense and painful fear in one individual is something of a mystery to me. She has no problem climbing to the highest heights, balancing on the most precarious of precipices, escaping out the back gate and wandering off our property alone. (And butt ass naked. Yes. I was mom of the year when she was two.) Yet, she had a social anxiety problem that causes her to be glued to a trusted adult and completely unable to speak in any situation that is out of the ordinary for her.
She is finally able to express love – she now tells us nightly how much she loves us – SOOOO MUCH (something she had never before been able to bring herself to say). She loves her best friend Darius to the point where it shatters her heart every time he has to leave. She professes her love for Peter hourly and loves all small animals and bugs. Heaven help the kid who squashes a bug in our house.
She is finally beginning to speak to family and friends who she trusts. Prior to this she wouldn’t even make eye contact, let alone speak, until she had adequately warmed up (this process could take her upward of several hours and this was with family and friends that she saw on a regular basis!).
Her major breakthrough came after we started talking to her about her difficulties and we assigned a name to this big monster. She is shy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Really, it’s more than just shyness, it’s called selective mutism (and on the anxiety spectrum).
Julia outside of the house and Julia inside the house, were two completely different children. In the house she was loud (LOUD!), rambunctious, loving, sharp as as whip and destructive in her quest for new experiences. It was such a radical difference that for a long time (before I began to research her “symptoms”) we honestly thought she was just being rude when she was fearful. We thought she was stubbornly shy (to the nth degree) when it was in fact an anxiety problem – she had (and still has, to a somewhat lesser degree) a complete psychological barrier that prevents her from showing her amazing personality to the outside world.
There is still some way to go, but the breakthroughs she has been having recently were a long time in the making. Once we began to understand the fact that Julia’s “shyness” was beyond typical, beyond a characteristic of her personality, it was easier to help her. Talking about shyness, visualizing scenarios where she’s uncomfortable and working through them with her (over and over), and above all, letting her know that we weren’t putting any expectations on her and not trying to force her to do anything beyond what she was comfortable with, opened her up to a tremendous degree. The results were close to instantaneous.
We’ve been slowly encouraging the building up of her self-esteem through swimming lessons and gymnastics (both of these come very easy to her). Building friendships seems to take a long time for her, so having the same kids over often, which happens when you are a childcare provider as I am, seems to be extremely helpful to her. School, which she starts in the fall, will likely have a positive impact on her as well.
She just has so much potential. She could literally do anything she wanted to. If she wanted to be an athlete, she certainly has the chops and then some. She has muscles on top of her muscles and an instinctive sense of her body and its abilities. If she wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut, she absolutely has the intelligence and the drive necessary. She outsmarts the pants off me, and not in ways that I always encourage. If she wanted to be an artist or a performer, she has vast abundance of creativity to draw from. If she wants to be a mommy and stay home with her babies, she would certainly excel at that too. She was born with an ardent love of all little things, people, animals, bugs, and anything else she can take care of and protect.
If she survives to adulthood (which some days, when she’s scaling the play structure in the backyard, seems highly questionable), I’m very certain she’ll do great things. Regardless, anything she does she will likely be extremely passionate about and she will do with great fervor. If I had to sum up Julia in one word, that would be it. She is passionate. And in this world, I think that’s one of the greatest personality traits a person can have.