I’ve been in tears on and off all day.
It began last night when I watched Bindi Irwin dance a tribute to her dad on a TIVOed episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”
It continued when I showed my 16-year-old daughter the clip a few hours later.
And began again when I showed my husband this morning.
You don’t have to follow the show or know much about Bindi Irwin to be flooded with waterworks when watching this clip. But if you have teenagers, you probably know Bindi already. As chances are you and your kids probably watched the then-elementary schooler on “The Crocodile Hunter Diaries” with her dad or maybe you caught her on The Wiggle’s “Wiggly Safari” film. We did.
We also watched the news the day her dad was killed by a Stingray and the televised memorial in which this 8-year-old girl who had just lost her dad, stood strong and composed in front of thousands (and a worldwide television audience) while reading her short handwritten eulogy for her dad.
And we cried. And apparently was not to be the only time this special kid would make this momma cry.
We watched Bindi again when she took over her dad’s conservation and television work on the Discovery Channel’s “Bindi the Jungle Girl.”
But I haven’t heard much about her in recent years, until she showed up on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Like past seasons I record the season so when I have some free time I catch up on past episodes. Sometimes that’ll be weeks after the episode’s airing. But this season I haven’t gone more than a day before I sit down and see what happened last night.
My connection with this season is largely due to the now-grown 17-year-old Jungle Girl, who presents herself with the same strength and poise I saw in her at 8-years-old. And as a mom of three teenagers, one of whom is a teenaged girl, I am mesmerized by this kid. From my viewpoint here in the depths of “Teenage Hell,” Bindi Irwin is a anomaly, as far as teenagers go.
This isn’t one of the sullen, snarky, moody teenagers that lurks in the deepest darkest filthiest bedrooms of my house, beneath piles of dirty laundry and unmade beds only to come out for food and, in the rare instance, deliver a grunted “thank you” for their dinner.
She is not selfie-obsessed (I know that because I follow her on Instagram and Twitter), and creating drama where there is none amongst her friends and family.
This isn’t a know-it-all 16-year-old who’s got it all figured, who complains and mopes, makes excuses and give ups when things don’t go her way. I know that because she danced without a hitch with an injured foot a few weeks back and currently keeps her ankle wrapped when she dances to nurse another injury.
Did we hear about that injury like we would the cold-ridden, sniffly, congested teenager who can’t empty the dishwasher because he is “Sooooooooo Sick!”? Not really. In fact, her dancing partner Derek Hough stopped to ask about her foot, which Bindi first denied was bothering her, but later admitted “Yeah, it kind of hurts” (I’m paraphrasing here), and then continued to learn her routine.
There’s not many teenagers that I know, at least not in my house, that would have the physical and mental toughness to dance through the pain of that injury. What am I talking about? They wouldn’t even have the mental strength to endure the grueling practice schedule these contestants deal with uninjured.
No don’t get be wrong. We are only seeing glimpses of her here, and her mom might be chuckling and nodding along with the rest of us while reading about sullen, ornery teenagers, caught up in themselves. But just seeing how much she has touched her dancing partner Derek, just listen to his comments or view some of his posts on social media (yes, I follow him, too), makes me believe hat this is not the case.
So what is it about Bindi that keeps her going even in the most difficult of circumstances with a smile and a confidence that exudes that “I’m utterly and completely comfortable in my own skin” feeling to all? What does she have that the majority of teens her age do not?
OK, koalas and elephant “pets” aside (who couldn’t be happy growing up at the Australian Zoo?), even with that idyllic kind of home life growing up, Bindi is still a girl who lost her father and best friend at 8-years-old. She still has the same teenage hormones coursing through her body that every other teenager has (resulting in the rampant mood swings we see with everyday teens). And she is friends with other teenage girls. And she has a boyfriend. And those of us with teenagers (especially teen-aged girls) know all the drama that comes along with all of the above.
Maybe it’s her Mom, Terri? (You are doing an awesome job BTW!)
Maybe it has something to do with losing her dad at such a young age?
Maybe it’s all the animals at the zoo? They are said to have a calming effect, well maybe not the lions and tigers, but hugging a koala could be calming.
Maybe it’s just something she was born with?
Maybe it’s Australia? I don’t know I’ve never been, but I plan to travel there some day.
Whatever it is though, Bindi Irwin has once again captured this momma’s heart like she did so many years ago when she was hunting crocs on TV with her dad. And she may have regained a fan, who was fascinated with her as an elementary schooler, and as a teenager now dreams of working with animals much like Bindi does and who may have just found a new teenaged role model to look up.
And unlike the average teen “role models” they follow via Instagram and Twitter, This one I whole-heartedly approve of.
This week was one of the few times we got to see the vulnerable side of Bindi, and she still presented as the most mature and grateful teenager I know.
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