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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Mashenka’s Mask

IMG_2002We just celebrated Mashenka’s birthday.  She turned 15 and somehow, our family has gotten into the habit of having a theme behind everyone’s birthday.  It might be an activity, sport, interest, or hobby of one of the children, around which we build their cake.

This year, hers was masks.

Our oldest daughter loves masks.  She would be great in a Mardi Gras or Carnivale setting.  She and her sister have bought masks for themselves.  They simply love the idea of either masking who they really are, or being someone else.

Mashenka is not unattractive.  She has a pretty smile, face, hair.  It’s not like there’s a major flaw or blemish that she needs to hide.  Instead, it’s about who she imagines herself to be on the inside.

She has no identity, or if she does, it’s all about self-loathing and hatred, and mourning her past rather than celebrating her present.  Birthdays are hardest, when she appears to hate the day she was born, and that her birthmother could have cared less whether she lived or died.  Yes, adoption often overshadows what should be the fun and carefree days of her youth.

“Mashenka, what kind of cake would you like this year?” I cheerfully inquired a month ago, wondering if she had an idea about flavor, color, or theme.

“I dunno….”

“Well, let’s think about what you like…” I tried to guide her into at least eliminating some ideas.

Meltdown.  So I backed off.

Then she mentioned that she wanted the family to go out to eat for her birthday lunch.  Fine.  What did she have inIMG_1989 mind?

“I dunno…” she hedged the issue.

I listed five or six possibilities, not one of them persuasive enough to make her commit.  Which pointed me to the mask theme.  She was most comfortable hiding behind something or someone else.

Occasionally, I would discuss persuasive essays with the children, how a student had to choose one position and argue that point. 

She would argue both sides, she informed me.

Obviously a self-esteem and confidence issue, Mashenka didn’t care to show her cards, lest she lose the entire game.  So, she opted out, which meant, she never even got to play the game, and that was sad.

But we have to work with the hand that we’re dealt in life, so we decided to make lemonade out of our lemons, and let her have her masked day, where she would feel most comfortable.  And she loved it.

We had a glittery gold mask on the cake, she wore a bright red feather mask, and the rest of us joined her in donning masks for the celebrations.  As was our custom, we snapped a photo of the family, surrounding the birthday person in question.

Did this help to solve Mashenka’s issues?  Not at all.  Did it celebrate her persona, even if it was hidden and unknown?  Absolutely.  Did it bolster her confidence and make her feel like she could have something to offer?  Yes and yes.

Baby steps.  Acknowledging children for who they are, instead of who we feel they should be.



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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Sybil says:

    Happy Birthday to dear Mashenka. May every year be better and better.
    Today I was talking with a Mom about our children and I recalled how my son HATED school and how he dropped out of regular school when he finished his sophomore year to go to a program where he went and got his work 1x a week and turned the previous weeks work in. We were so worried about him and his future. Many years have now passed. He is a psychotherapist at a college, head of his department and teaches graduate psychology.
    Keep giving her the opportunities you do, honor her needs as you did at her birthday and hopefully she will be able to solve her issues as she matures.

    • avatar admin says:

      Great advice and encouragement! Thanks, Sybil. I think what’s missing in some of our kids is not the brain power, but the want-to to move forward. If they’re still working on things from the past, we can try to force them to move forward, but it may take its toll in one step forward, two steps back. She’s a smart girl when it comes to schoolwork, so all things being considered, she should be able to figure out the rest with time and help, too.

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