School’s Out for Summah!!

FullSizeRender (17)In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer?  And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing.  And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet.  I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter.  My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time:  read, lego, repeat.  But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.

The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin.  Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama.  We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more).  It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.

I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot.  The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.

So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh!  But left to her own devices anything could happen, right?  She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life.  It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to.  But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.

FullSizeRender (16)Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars.  We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree.  I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town.  I do trust that my daughter will make good choices.  But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared.  I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…

 

Being 13 in 2017

img_7002As 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.