Having a sixteen year old daughter who is very much like you is a strange conundrum. On one hand, the experience of parenting a child who looks like you, who acts like you, and who is really a better version of you is both exciting and rewarding. Yet, on the other hand, having a child so much like yourself is a bit scary as you wonder if she will make the same mistakes that you made. When you see her struggling with life’s obstacles and she seems to be handling the problems much like you would have at that age; but you want to guide her otherwise now that you are older and wiser. <Where is my Parenting 101 Guidebook when I need it?>
My sixteen year old is my first born, so whereas she has all the rights and privileges of being number one in our family (ask my son how he likes *that*), she also bears the burden of our intense parenting…okay, MY intense parenting, as I insist on raising children that will not only be successful people, but compassionate humans who will be highly functioning in the real world. <Yes, she may need therapy soon, as will my other two children.>
My oldest has experienced a challenging situation this fall, and instead of being a helicopter parent, I am *trying* to provide her with the coping skills she needs to handle the situation herself. My words of support only take this strong girl so far. Being the brave girl that she is, she has managed to instigate a conversation to find out how she could make the situation better. My sense of pride swelled as she described how she handled herself. Yet, the words returned to her were simply heartbreaking and offered no real explanation. Inasmuch as I could hear my motor revving and my instinctive desire to swoop in and find out more behind the lack of description behind the words provided to my hard-working girl, I had to refrain from being *that* parent. <@#8@&#^!@)*(!@#@!@#E*&$#@!!!!!!>
Life is not fair. How do we find the ways to cope with *that* message? You just do.
My gut tells me to continue talking to her, to encourage her to engage in dialogue again with the other party in this particular matter. Yet, my daughter’s eyes glazed over and she complacently agrees with my *strategy* to go get ‘em, killa! My need to use my twenty-four years of experience post-sixteen myself becomes compulsive and my talent of picking up on body language cues slides further down the slippery slope. <LISTEN TO ME, HONEY…..I was THIS girl twenty-four years ago and I now regret some of the choices I made or did not make! LISTEN TO ME, PLEASE! >
<Hangs head…..knowing this girl is exactly a form of me and I need to back the eff off before I push her too far and away.>
Tuning in to my newly minted fourteen year old son I turn, hoping to find a few easier parental lessons here instead. My son and I are at a good place after a couple of tumultuous puberty-filled years. However, his newfound lady friends and his increasing interest in them have me more on high alert. Keeping the dialogue open with a teenaged boy is vastly different than communicating with my teenaged girl. Slowly, and painfully, my son is learning that the more he shares with me the less I am to keep inquiring. <Trolling: parents hovering, watching, stalking, leering, peeking, looking away for a moment, observing, and pulling out all points surveillance on all forms of social media to ensure your child is behaving in a manner that you deem appropriate. I am guilty as charged and holy Instagram, Batman!>
Continuing down the path of parental trials is my youngest girl, at six years old, who is so innocent and excited to be in school. The plethora of friends and social activities that she engages in frightens me; as much as I adore how social this particular child is, I fear that she may provide me with my biggest parenting obstacles as she grows. <Can a six year old be deemed a party girl, party animal, using her zest for life as an excuse to enjoy her world?!?>
Lately, I find myself conflicted with my personal rule of NOT picking my children’s friends. As my littlest girl shared every sordid detail of her school days (Maybe *that’s* why my son does not share much– he’s sandwiched between two sisters who tell me everything?!?), I started to worry about particular details of a classmate. Certain out of school behaviors lead me to believe that I am not comfortable with my child spending extra time with this child. How do I tell my precocious daughter that we are not okay with her being friends with so and so? Eek. We have simply talked about bad choices and that perhaps a good choice for my daughter is to limit time with those who continually decide to make bad choices. <Stay the EFF away from these kids, THIS KID, you are NOT to be friends with them. You will not EVER be allowed to spend time with them without my presence. Smile. Blink eyelashes. <Have this conversation in your head to yourself!> (Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)
Life. Phew. Life is far from fair. As a parent, your instinct is to shelter and protect your wee ones from the garbage in life. We desire the world to be viewed from those rose-colored glasses. The older the kids get, the more you realize you cannot protect them from the tougher instances in their lives; but instead, you must equip them to someday go off into the vast world and survive themselves.
Life is not fair. My children have had more than their unfair share by watching me, their momma battle cancer and by losing their maternal grandparents at a young age. My *need* to protect them from the other inequitable aspects in life seems more profound than what you may find in a typical parent.
I do not want to watch my oldest struggle with the internal sadness she feels as she tries to understand her current challenge. Yet, I understand that she must handle this situation on her own and find her way. The best thing I have the ability to do right now for her is to offer her hugs and kisses. Unconditional love. If anything else in this world, my sixteen year old and her siblings will have parents, especially their momma, to offer them unlimited and unconditional love when their world may seem as if it is falling apart.
I have to trust that despite periods of pain or sadness in my children, they must make their own choices in their lives. My children will learn from each of their smart decisions, as well as learn from their respective mistakes. <Do as your mother says, NOT as your mother did!!!!> Each experience in their lives is simply yet another thread in the woven work of progress they are each individually, just as my experiences are my own and my decisions make me (or made me), uniquely me.
I am not proud of some of the decisions I made in my youth. Some of my decisions were downright poor and I was judged heavily for those poor choices. Yet, the lessons learned remain with me to the present day and offer me the ability to be a better parent to my own kiddos. (If I ever get lucky enough to finish my book, you may find out what some of these poor decisions were in detail. EEK.)
My children may learn that while life may certainly not be fair, the journey at times may be tough, but their lives are to be full of so much greatness. <Once you surpass the high school days, that is, children! Cackle!>