Mama#3 has a problem. She is troubled that her five-year old daughter is excessively introvert: quiet, shy, often frightened, reluctant to try new things, meet new people or even answer most questions posed by her parents. And now – a disturbing report from Lily’s nursery school teacher.
“Lily is not adapting to school,” the man said with a serious look on his face. “She is far too withdrawn during class. She won’t interact with the other children and refuses to join in most of the activities.”
Mama#3 hates challenges when they call for unusual solutions. It’s difficult for her to think outside the box. Rather, she prides herself on her lucidity and cold logical thinking. It’s something she’s worked hard at developing from an early age.
Both her parents were no-nonsense accountants in New York city who wanted their daughter’s mind to work in perfectly straight lines. When she was only five years old, they’d mock her and call her “wonky” or “flaky” (or even “crazy”) if they noticed she let her mind meander and zigzag like a lazy butterfly, or tumble into a fuzzy fantasy.
Naturally, these persistent parental complaints rode roughshod over her feelings. An emotional dizziness began growing silently and unmolested like a poisonous weed deep inside her. This shaky insecurity continued to flourish even though she did learn to think logically. And so her high marks in math at school and eventually her MBA degree from Cornell never made her feel secure. (They couldn’t. And besides, it wasn’t their job anyway).
The only thing is, logic often fails her now she is a mother. Solving tricky family problems is, well, tricky. Programmed long ago to stay on a fixed, straight and narrow path, her mind isn’t able to bend or stray into valuable pockets of creative tactics, original strategies and genial ideas – or so Mama#3 believes. (Of course, her mind diligently obeys this belief.)
So this fab Mama, a good wife and mother – warm, loving, capable in so many ways – feels insecure about dealing with anything off her beaten track. The result? Mama#3 never dares try a new recipe.
And then, as fate would have it, life gives Mama#3 a beautiful young daughter whose excessive introversion she can neither understand nor penetrate. She worries because she, too, has noticed that Lily seems to live in a semi-permanent state of retreat, refusing to remain for any length of time in the real world. It’s as if Lily finds it uninteresting at best, problematic at worst.
Mama#3’s deep insecurity wakes from its slumber. Although anxious and fearing Lily suffers from some deep problem that depresses her, both she and her husband are unwilling to subject her sensitive daughter to sessions with a therapist.
Plagued by the persistent pleas of Abbey, her best friend, Mama#3 finally agrees (somewhat miraculously given her background, but it did take three entire months of pleading by Abbey) to go outside the bounds of her own experience and logical frame of mind and get a professional astrological consult for Lily.
“It’s not about prediction,” Abbey assures her. “If you get it done professionally, a horoscope can reveal amazing details about Lily’s inner life – the way her mind works, her private reality, what she loves, what she needs, what her challenges are and what can help her.”
Refraining from using astrological jargon, symbols, metaphors and analogies in favor of simple language, the astrologer told Mama#3 the chart revealed Lily’s mind was fascinating.
“Lily’s not depressed. To the contrary, Lily is an exceptionally artistically talented child. Her imagination and talent for drama are two of her best qualities. Her inner world is overflowing with fantastic images and delightful mental romps across her own private universe. Call it inner blockbuster movies of her own making. All this fantasy and drama could possibly feed her career as an adult, and it’s blossoming already. She’s a veritable Alice in her own Wonderland!”
And here’s where this Mama’s WORKOUT began. The astrologer explained to her it was essential Lily learn how to channel all that inner fantasy and creativity into outer games and projects. Otherwise, left to herself, over time she might get lost in a world all her own, isolated from others and even from love. Not only would she never learn to relate to others, her frustrated dramatic talents might very well turn negative inside her, creating havoc in her inner world – and possibly a later tendency to use drugs.
“Are you an imaginative person yourself?” the astrologer asked. Mama#3 explained she wasn’t. Quite the contrary. “Then it may help you one day to get your own chart. Perhaps some change is necessary in your inner life to free up a part of you that will help you relate to Lily’s fantasy life, and understand her on a deep level.”
“Rather than leave Lily to her musings,” she added, “you need to encourage Lily to talk about her fantasies. Plus she needs to be touched a lot. Hugged, kissed, rocked, massaged and given sensual delights. This helps to ground her in the outer world.”
Also on the agenda of the workout was providing outer situations in which Lily could play, introducing her dramatic talent to the real world. And so this fab Mama had a neighbor build a small, colorful theater above the garage for Lily, complete with stage, microphone, spotlight and polka-dotted curtains, on which Lily could play out her inner stories. She went to rummage sales and found a variety of costumes Lily could use and placed them in a colorful trunk bearing the words “Costumes for Lily, the Artist” near the stage.
And although it seemed to her a five-year old was too young for an iPod, she bought Lily a bright blue one and had her husband download some of Lily’s favorite music onto it.
Part of this hip Mama’s workout also included arranging for Lily to witness as many artistic performances as possible: a costumed parade, a light show at the zoo, puppet shows, a dance recital at the city center, a children’s singing competition and scores of children’s dramas on videos.
Mama#3’s workout is ongoing, but already she reports that Lily definitely is showing signs she feels deeply understood and approved in her uniqueness. Lily now shares many of her daydreams and fantasies with her mom. And it continues to be her mother’s challenge to make time to sit with her and listen to her at length, with a smile and a hug.
©2012 Francine Juhasz, Ph.D.