Some of my friends and family have elementary-age children and younger. I was able to attend my two-year-old cousin’s birthday party recently, and her mom (also my cousin) is expecting her second daughter anytime now. I forget how different the parenting stages are until I’m around moms of younger kids. I watched her marvel over each gift. Her beautiful little face lit up brighter than her #2 candle as she blew out the flame with her mom. Memories of my own girls on their birthdays careened through my mind, their bitter sweet toddler moments long-gone.
Just like the baby and toddler stages, there are moments when I feel completely overwhelmed and like I want to pull what’s left of my (mostly gray beneath the red dye) hair out. I have recently come to the conclusion that nothing is more terrifying than watching your young adult child grow up and become independent.
My beautiful, stubborn daughter is practicing for the real world. I am just Mom, who knows nothing. Mom, who used to be brilliant, hilarious, and beautiful, is now just annoying Mom. I get eye-rolls and slammed doors on bad days. On some days I’m her sounding board, and I’m always her ATM. As other moms in this stage know, it goes from age 12 to warp speed in the blink of an eye! All of the sudden it seems like my little girl is driving (with an actual license and everything!! ), and there are only two (count them, TWO) more years left of high school. She has her first job and is learning the value of money. I have heard her say the following, since her work adventure began: I thought going to school was hard, but working is exhausting! I will do SO much better in school now because I don’t want to work this hard (not that there’s anything wrong with that) for the rest of my life! Working with the public is not always fun, people are so mean! I still have to do chores, Mom, but I’m so tired!? All I do is work, I have had no summer.
One of the hardest things for me is to keep my mouth shut for some of this stuff and just let life teach her, such as with her job. I’m learning with teenagers, it’s often better to let them figure some things out on their own as life circumstances present themselves, because when I’ve attempted to explain something or nag her, she wants to do the opposite (I have no idea where she got the stubborn streak). I try to really listen to her, and then I ask her what she thinks and feels would be the right thing to do. If she asks for my opinion, I try to give it to her in a calm and objective tone (without threatening to lock her in her room until she’s 30). There are some days when I feel I am oblivious to the answers and wish I could just go back to the days when she curled up in my lap with a bedtime story.
She has recently decided to change her hair-color. My child has officially moved to the young woman stage, testing her boundaries, questioning who she is and what she wants. I’m trying to hang back a little, loosening my death grip on her to give her the room she needs, while giving her a safe place to land. Guys, this is so hard sometimes!
I now completely understand how my mom felt and I think often about everything I put my own mother through. There are days after one of my girls scream at me or disregard my feelings. On those days, I feel like hugging my mom. I understand now how it feels to have someone you would give up your entire world for scream at you or slam a door in your face. I know why parents are unable to sleep until their children have the car parked safely in the garage, whether they are 16 or 25, it doesn’t matter. The world is such a scary place, full of shadows and villains waiting to prey on young girls. I understand now why my dad never stopped worrying about me, even after I was a grown woman. No matter how old your children get, they are still your babies, in your eyes, and always will be. I used to think the hardest part about raising teenaged girls was dealing with boys, but now I think it is learning how to let go.
I have been blessed beyond belief in raising this stubborn, beautiful, bright, and funny girl for sixteen eventful years. I must have faith that my example and the example of her three other parents, her grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and other influential people in her life have framed a sturdy moral foundation for her to build her life on. The hard part is knowing when to stand back and when to step in and help.
Throughout the hormonal outbursts, the driving lessons, and the boundaries being tested, are tiny glimpses of appreciation. Moments when I see my girls doing something because it is the right thing to do. I think to myself, she gets it. She really gets it, and I helped teach her that. Then I remember my parents, how much I’ve grown and realize I’ve come full circle.
“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”