As a parent of a newly minted teenager I feel as though I’m constantly navigating land mines and making compromises that keep the beast at bay while simultaneously trying to encourage and nurture her to be the best and happiest person she can be. It’s not easy and a lot of the time I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And, most of the time I’m worried that means that I’m doing her irreparable harm- that somehow my lack of expertise in this parenting arena is going to mean she’s never going to live up to her full potential. But tonight something amazing happened. Tonight I saw a rare glimpse of the complete and whole person my daughter is going to be. And it was beautiful.
My daughter has a friend sleeping over tonight and they came home from school and proceeded to spend the rest of the day behind a closed door in her bedroom. This irked me to no end, but I thought I’d leave it be, mainly because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the eye rolling and huffing that I knew would ensue if I suggested they do something a little less lethargic. Dinner time came and I asked them to come out and eat with us, fully expecting that it would be a rushed affair that they tolerated in order to get on with their night. But it didn’t play out like that.
Both girls started an animated recount of a few different things that had happened at school that morphed into a larger discussion about the current state of our world, how it’s talked about at school and what it means to them. I was so impressed with their impassioned opinions and that they had all sorts of facts and research to back them. I loved that our discussion included deciphering fake news from real, tolerating other people’s points of view, and ideas about how to combat injustice. And I really loved that they know how to use Snopes and that they read Politico! But most of all I loved that both girls were making some serious eye contact and were completely engaged in our conversation.
We generally have good family conversations, and with this current political landscape I’ve seen that my daughter can be passionate about critical causes and issues but it’s rare to have the type of discussion we had when she has friends around. I know that they are all deeply interested in what’s going on, but I don’t often hear them discussing it with each other. For me, that was the best part of the night. Knowing that their private teenage world has expanded beyond following social media stars, debating about what color Converse to get, and making musically videos shows me that there is a silver lining in everything. We might be in really tough times now, but these tough times are turning our teens into informed, motivated leaders of tomorrow.
I look at my daughter and I see the future. I want her to be 13 and not have to worry about what’s going on in the world too much, but at the same time I want her to know how important it is to be a responsible citizen and care about the world around her. Sometimes I’m not sure that message is getting across. But tonight, tonight was sheer validation that it most definitely is. Tonight I was reminded that she is a 13 year old girl, with all the frivolity and self absorption that comes with that, but she’s also a 13 year old girl with strong convictions, a big heart and a desire to do what’s right. And tonight I am breathing a tiny little sigh of relief.