Liv has pretty much settled on where she wants to attend high school. She wants to go to Peace Academy, a Catholic girl's high school.
I have tried hard to not push my agenda. Which is Please think about going to a Montessori high school? I KNOW it is in that swanky part of the city that we don't like...but it's Montessori!
She's gamely done what is called shadowing at nearly every school in our city. Public schools. Private schools. Parochial schools. This means that she spends a day with a person who already attends that school to see what she thinks.
She thinks she likes Peace Academy. It's a hard one for me. Not because it isn't a nice school. It is a gorgeous school. The grounds look like freakin' Harvard, all old oaks and sunlight filtering through them and old buildings that are made of brick and stone and look, well....academic. And even Bing is impressed with their science and music programs. They have a basketball, soccer, tennis and track team. They don't usually win, but they do have fun.
I like the staff who seem remarkably open minded for a parochial school.
Liv and I sat down to discuss this last night. I started by saying that I guessed she had made up her mind. She smiled and pointed to the sweatshirt she was wearing: a tasteful gray one with the words PEACE ACADEMY in beautiful calligraphy. I asked her how she felt about four more years at a Catholic school. With two mothers.
She said that she was actually fine with it, that she found Catholicism to be fascinating and doesn't mind being one of the few in her class who are not practicing Catholics.
I do know that she adores going to mass. This is so her, so unique that it makes me smile. While the other kids (mostly the lifelong Catholic ones like I was) sit bored out of their minds, she says that she finds the mass almost breathtakingly beautiful. She loves it, especially, on the days when the priest chooses to say the mass in Latin. She likes the hymns. She finds the Apostles Creed to be poetic. She says that often she goes into an almost meditative trance during the mass, that when everyone stands up to go to communion, she is startled.
She always goes up for communion, not to take the body of Christ, but to be blessed by the priest. She showed me how she crosses her arms over her chest and slightly bows to be blessed.
"It makes me feel all warm inside, like a good start to a cold day," she says.
I sat back, looking at her carefully. Asked her if she considered converting.
She looked at me as if I were insane.
"GOD, NO!" she said. "I've been raised by two women who ARE MY PARENTS, my family. I won't belong to any church that says that this is sinful. And I completely think the whole concept of Catholics getting to sit in the front of the bus on the way to heaven is ridiculous. The bus that I plan to sit on has people of all religions and even atheists and agnostics. Plus, I think this shit, sorry...I mean nonsense about priests being the big daddies and nuns being the dumb little sisters is just plain wrong. And birth control? I am ALL for birth control!"
She sat back, a little flushed.
I smiled at her, impressed. She had done some thinking on this.
"How about abortion?" I asked.
She grew quiet. She looked down for a beat and then met my eyes fully and honestly.
"I think abortion is wrong," she said. "At least for me. I just...I believe that life begins at conception, Mama."
I nodded. Told her that it was totally her right to have her own opinions. Privately, I patted myself on the back. When I was her age, I would have DIED rather than say my true opinions to my Mother. And she would have signed me up for private lessons with our parish priest if I had even given one scent of disbelief.
And I don't regret leaving the church. It was the right decision for me. I don't agree with Liv's decision to attend an all girl Catholic high school, but I won't stand in her way. Her life is her own, her decisions belong to her and only her. It isn't my job to support every one she makes. It's my job to love her no matter what.
I often put my tongue in my cheek over Catholics in general, though. I read where 92% believe in birth control, nearly 60% have no problem whatsoever with homosexuality and 79% believe that women should be priests. And yet, the belong to a religion that condemns all of the above.
But, now I am wondering. Maybe all of those percents are people who love the church like Liv does. Because it gives them a sense of belonging, of peace. I wonder if, perhaps, I have neglected to introduce Liv to more church going as she grew up. We seldom went to church. It was usually only when a relative was married or baptized or died that we went. Sometimes on Christmas Eve, I would go to midnight mass because I loved the joyousness of it all.
I understand the need to belong, to feel a love for a place that brings one peace. It just has never been the mass for me. It's been other things. Maybe because I spent every single Friday morning going to mass with my classmates when I went to Catholic school for my schooling until twelfth grade. And then again on Sunday with my family. And even more often on holidays.
By the time, I was in 6th grade, I rarely even listened in mass anymore. I would make up stories in my head. Use that time to plan out my life. And my plans never included staying in the church.
I left the church unofficially when I was 24 and officially when I was 41. And I've never once looked back or felt regret.
I've worked hard to let my daughter be herself in this world. Not by herself but be herself. And now, I must pay the piper for that decision.
She will go to an all girl Catholic high school next year and I will be right there beside her in support. I don't have to agree with her to stand next to her. I just have to love her enough. And I can do that.
It's the gift that my own Mother never gave me. The hardest truth I ever learned about my Mother was that she didn't love me enough to love me unconditionally.
I will not have Liv learning that lesson. I want her to feel my presence next to her at all times. I want her to lean into it, sometimes hard, sometimes softly, sometimes not at all. I just want her to know it's there. That I'm right there. Maybe then she won't make the same mistakes that I made in my life. The way I never allowed myself to fully give myself to anyone else until I was nearly 45 years old and in danger of losing the one woman who had ever mattered to me. The way I scorned love, saying that it was as Tina Turner proclaimed, "just a sweet old fashioned notion." I learned to wear my armor because I felt that I was all I had.
Maybe Liv will make better, smarter choices than I did because she feels supported in a way that I never did.
At any rate...at 13, she is a helluva lot smarter than I was at her age.