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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thinking about Raising Girls

The last few days have been spent working hard on a small quilt which hasn't behaving, doing household chores, trying to divest myself of things by selling them on eBay and just the general business of living.

Earlier this week, a high school classmate of mine IM'd me on Facebook to tell me about a woman who had been a friend but who had been a year behind us. Unfortunately, the news was not good.

Beth Barton had been sweet, caring young woman who was very good friends with the younger sister of one of my close friends. She had struggled through Track, done well in school and just was an all around nice person. I think she took Advanced Biology with me, and a few other classes.

When she graduated, she went on to nursing school and became a traveling nurse. She loved to see new places and continued to help people. On January 22nd, she committed suicide.

I called my friend's sister who also lives in Ohio, but not near me, to let her know. She had known, but sort of filled me in on some other things. Beth had struggled with depression. She also seemed to regret that she had never married and my friend said that sometimes she seemed to have a hard time with the fact that my friend had children and was married, and Beth did not. In addition, a few years ago, one of Beth's brothers had died. She had been devastated.

My friend had suggested that probably part of her inability to form lasting relationships is that she moved a lot, both with her position and also as to where she lived. Certainly, her career choice would not have been one which would allow one to put down roots.

But this also got me to thinking about something else. When we were growing up, it was a given that little girls would grow up, get married and have children of their own. While even as a child I recognized that not every one would marry, or that everyone could have children, this was still the norm.

I know that when I was in my 20s, when everyone else was getting married, I still wasn't dating anyone. When one is the sole employee where most of the members of the institution are older, you don't get a chance to meet other younger people or potential mates. I didn't meet my own husband until I was 26, and I got married at age 30. I remember being a bit miffed at my sister who called me "her career girl sister." It seemed somewhat lonely.

I think that perhaps we don't raise girls with this in mind anymore. At least I don't think I have ever held it up to my daughter "when you get married." I don't recall doing so at any rate. I must admit that there have been a few times when I have almost said "Just wait until you have kids of your own!" But I have restrained myself. I must admit, there is a little part of me which is just vindictive enough to be unhappy at the prospect of my daughter not having children because I want her to know what it is like to be the mother of a teenager.

I wonder if things would have been different for Beth if we hadn't had this expectation of what life is supposed to be like. I also wish that she could have gotten the help she needed. Mental illness still is not treated enough (what other disease or chemical imbalance is shrugged off and the person is supposed to be able to pull oneself out of the darkness???), accepted socially (although it is getting better), or I even think understood enough.

I do know that the world will be even a little less kind without Beth in it. I hope that she has finally found the peace that she longed for while here. I wished I could have let her know what I thought about her while she was alive.

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