Monday, July 25, 2016


     Pene has been in the habit for years now of mumbling or addressing her comments at the dinner table to only one party so no one else can hear clearly what she says. I find these side conversations annoying so I ask her to speak up so everyone can hear. Even upon repeating, she'll sometimes speak at a voice barely audible, much less decipherable, so I'll say, “I still can't hear you,” at which point she shouts in irritation.
     In short, we're trying to teach her to be assertive and cheerful. The second part's easy for her as it's in her nature, but not combined with the first—it's one of her few glaring weaknesses in social skills and maturity.

     We've felt called to visit other churches this past month and at one of them, a girl but a year Pene's senior greeted us prior to Sunday service at the snack lanai and boy was she ever impressive! She spoke with clear, friendly, assertive confidence, calm and articulate. Her posture, eye contact, and body language were composed, age-appropriate, and sensible. There aren't too many peers to Pene that I'd like her to imitate, but she was one of them when it comes to speaking, at least.  When speaking with her, I spoke more smoothly and with far less stumbles and awkwardness than usual. (I tend to imitate those around me.)
     I later asked Pene if she was impressed by her and she smiled and said, Yes! So she can recognize what we're after.
     Pene's voice is naturally muted, but that can be overcome as whenever she's excited with her brothers, she speaks with ample authority. I think it's more a matter of wanting to appear coy, sophisticated, or unobtrusive, and not boorish, uncouth, or attention-seeking. Though she doesn't say any of this, her hesitant body language sometimes suggests it.

     I recently read a humorous nonfiction book in which the writer says that guys love bitches—strong, assertive, and self-contained types, with strong personalities—and flee from clingy, needy, pliant, wilty girls, indecisive and fearful, whose world revolves around the guy, and who are wholly dependent on him for all their self-image needs. The writer had been the latter—unsuccessful in love—until something clicked and she became the former—with guys flocking to her for attention.
     Well, obviously it's not either/or—there's a long, unclearly defined spectrum. I, too, was more so the latter type until I came to know and trust and surrender my all to God, at which point I became more so the former type—though you don't have to be a bitch or an ass to be confident, secure, and strong, or be totally spineless or codependent to lack adequate self-confidence or strength.
     Pene's got lots of time and it's understandable that an adolescent will often lack self-composure (I was a shaky leaf at her age with certain peers, though mumbling was never an issue for me). At home at least, she can do better. I suppose her strength, like mine, is in one-on-one interactions, not large, free-for-all groups.  And we love her just as well for that.

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