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.
The other day I asked my son to clean up his toys so that we could get to school on time. He said “but I can’t do that by myself!” And I replied- “of course you can, give it a try!” His reply? “Mom, you know I’m just a kid, right?” Ha- as if I could forget. I live and breath KID. My every waking moment is dedicated to kid stuff. Even if I’m working, or with friends or out on “date night” with my husband, I’m still thinking about the kids, or feeling guilty about not being with them. But that’s OK… I’m not going to turn this post into a complaint about how hard motherhood is. That’s not my point (at least not today). Hmm… what is the point? I’m not quite sure. I probably should be complaining- I just got back from the grocery store with both kids in tow, and as usual it was an hour long mental tug of war (me against them, my shopping list vs their wants). And, of course I left missing two of things I wanted (needed) to get the most. But, really- is that such a big deal? Not at all. So many people out there are struggling with so much. And me? Well, geesh- I have a comfortable home, a loving husband, beautiful kids, a successful business and most of my sanity. Life is good! The problem is I DO forget that sometimes. There are days when I get frustrated and I yell, and I sound mean. I don’t like it- and as soon as the words come out of my mouth I wish I could grab them and stuff them back in. My daughter is 8 now, and I feel like I need to be extra careful with what I say to her. I seem to recall almost all of the mean or hurtful things my own mother said to me while I was young and none of the nice, encouraging, loving ones. And 8 is a delicate age- EVERYTHING is a big deal, everything happens with a tinge of drama. I can tell my girl is struggling a bit to figure out who she is, and yelling and losing patience with her certainly isn’t going to help matters. How do I curb my frustration (which really only stems from trying to do my best to make sure she and her brother grow up to be happy and well adjusted) and guide her to become the compassionate, kind, smart, strong, charitable, polite wonderwoman that I know she can be? Ah! By being that person myself.
Yes, they are just kids, that’s true. I need to recognize that and NOT treat them like little adults, or expect them to act like ones. I’m not saying they can’t clean up their toys, or help out around the house, or practice using good manners. In fact those are things that kids are expected to do (at least in my world). But, should I get frustrated when it takes too long to tie shoes or put on jackets? Or when my son has a total and complete meltdown because he can’t find the lego toy he was playing with two seconds ago (that happens to be right behind him)? Or one (or both of them) won’t eat a meal that they devoured – and claimed to be the best food ever- just last week? Or what about the spilled milk? Or maybe when they hover over me (as I type a post about being a mom for example) waiting for me to pay attention to them because 15 minutes away is too much to ask? Uh uh. No sir. I really want to try to reserve my anger for the really big things- rule breakers. Because maybe, just maybe I’ve been so concerned about them being respectful to me that I haven’t been that respectful to them. And, by that I don’t mean being more lenient, or letting them rule the house, or do as they please. I simply mean maybe I should be taking time to really listen to them – with both ears tuned in and both eyes focused on them, and to really understand what they are saying or doing. It’s hard and confusing to be a kid- I’m not so old that I don’t remember that. I just need to be reminded a teensy tiny bit.