Women are very interesting creatures. Of course, I do realize I am one, but that aside... Of late, I've been able to see both the very good and the very bad in several members of the 'fairer sex'.
Kate has had to deal with some less-than-pleasant girls at school recently. It amazes me how catty girls are, and how hurtful their careless words can be. Rude, immature and just downright mean! And drama...OH, the drama! And, I'm not even thinking entirely of teenagers, but grown women as well!! Social networks like Facebook can be a grand stage for such drama queens, and it's sad to see so many talented 'performers'. Getting to know moms from school and little league and other places over the past few years has been a very interesting and mixed bag. I've gotten to know some really great ladies, but I've also gotten to witness a couple that have been very irritating, between hearing them gossip, trash-talk their husbands, and tell tales of their own love of partying (and not in a past tense). My guess is it's going to be kind of hard to give the 'just say no to drugs' talk when you yourself are bragging, in a not-so-quiet voice, about how much you enjoy getting high now and then, and how younger people think that you're cool for it...being 'older' and all. Ugh...it just makes me so sad and frustrated.
But then there are some other moments that I've experienced with women that lets me see picture of the image bearers of God that we were designed to be. When Christian sisters share each others hurts it is a powerful thing. Like when one is brokenhearted over a lost pregnancy, and even though we know there are no words that will really comfort, a gentle hug, a knowing look and a comforting touch can say "I know, and I'm feeling your pain too...". When the stresses of dealing with babies and toddlers threatens to completely swallow you, or conversely, having to make difficult choices and decisions in dealing with aging parents, sometimes only another woman can listen in a way that you know you can pour out the depths of your weariness and just doing so, brings a breath of refreshment that can keep you going another day. It's knowing the reality of frustrating hormone issues, the shared love of chocolate, the appreciation of beauty that can bond women in a way that is so unique.
But the absolute, most beautiful times shared times I've had with the women I'm close with is being able to share birthing experiences. I've been with my sister, and yesterday one of my best friends, and in both cases there were at least 4 other women (besides myself) in the delivery room. It is an experience that I can't fully express in words. It's a togetherness that makes the long hours of laboring pass much more quickly. It's a sense of 'knowing' that can have all of you laughing uproariously one minute, and a reverenced hush in the next as we together wait out a strong contraction. It's the bond felt every time a new nurse/doctor walks in to check the laboring mommy and asks if she would like the rest of us to leave the room and she says, "Nope...these are my friends..." and that word 'friends' takes on a deeper meaning than any time it has ever been uttered before. It's the fact that we realize during the pushes that we all found our own bodies completely tensed, and when she stopped there's a collective exhale. As the baby made her appearance there was cheering and clapping and general gleefulness.
But the interesting thing is, it's not just about whether each of us had given birth before, because in each of my experiences there have been at least 2 women in the room who had never given birth. It's about relationship. The kind of relationship that shares the worst pain, the most intimate situations, the most joyous moments. It's about the older and the younger sharing life experiences together. (At my sister's last delivery, her eldest daughter and mine were both present, as well as our mom. At yesterday's, my daughter and the mommy's soon-to-be married younger sister were both there.) It's about the ones who have been there before (in any situation, not just birthing) being able to empathize, and offer gentle words of advice, when appropriate (and yes, that means sometimes it's not appropriate, and there is wisdom in knowing the difference), and the younger ones taking in these new situations and tucking away thoughts of "I want to do that someday", as well as "I think I'll probably do that differently." It's not that we have to do things the same...it's that no matter what, if we have relationship, there is freedom to share and learn from one another.
I have many wonderful and deep friendships with women, both younger and older than myself. And when you have such, almost any life event can be a bonding experience. Having 'The Talk', first crushes, getting ready for prom, weddings, births, marriage struggles, menopause...they all become shared journeys. There's a sense of "we do this together", that I think, in part, is an aspect of the unique design of women, and I count myself blessed to be one.