Monday, May 6, 2013

A moment to reflect on parenting a teenager

I’ve begun to notice a significant shift in the relationship I have with my teenage daughter. Slightly suspicious of such changes, I’ve kept my thoughts to myself while wondering whether the shift is her growth as a young adult or my growth as a premenopausal woman who can’t seem to hold on so tightly to anxiety anymore.

Seriously, I’ve noticed that anxiety and I aren’t best buddies lately. Sure, on occasion, we visit and it’s just like old times, but for the most part, anxiety just doesn’t live inside me the way it used to. This is a blessing because I do still have a seventeen year old living with me after all. The cast of odd-ball characters in her world would make any parent shudder but at least the lead actors – the kids closest to her – are fairly well grounded. And she navigates this world of drugs, alcohol and other unhealthy decisions (cheating, skipping school, etc…) with wide, open eyes and a sense of what is best for her. I see her learning. I see her kindness. I see the burgeoning development of wisdom - or at least a sense of self-preservation - and I’ve learned that that is pretty much as good as it gets as a parent.
Everything else is gravy.  

So somewhere over the last few months I let go of trying to control her outcomes. I let go of the notion that I actually have the power to cushion her falls. She’s making her life happen now and doesn’t need or want a backseat driver. Being part of the pit crew is still my task; however, it’s up to her how she is going to take the turns and what speed she wants to travel at. That place in the driver’s seat also means that she’s going take the lumps from whatever spinouts happen – like paying for a new cell phone that she broke. I see her working hard to figure out how to balance everything in her life and sometimes it’s a struggle. And yet, she keeps strapping herself back in and heading back out into this crazy race called growing up.
Alright, enough racing metaphors. I get carried away sometimes.
What I’m grappling with is the changing response I am noticing within myself in regards to parenting. The lower anxiety is paralleling my sense of her resiliency. It is a wondrous thing to look at your child and start seeing their ability to manage life decisions for themselves.

While I am still actively parenting this youngster, I’ve shifted my focus now to help her understand what it means to be an adult – not how to get her to adulthood.  I have savored getting to know my other adult children and so I can see my youngest growing up without any fears that our relationship is going to be anything but rich and filled with love. I really enjoy the moments of not worrying so much – even knowing that there will be times ahead that will cause sleepless nights and concern.
That pretty much defines a life lived loving other people regardless of age.

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