Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Upside of Parenting a Teen

Everyone knows the challenges of parenting a teenager. There's the eye rolling, savant-like swearing ability, door slamming, crap left all over the house, and the roller coaster of moods. Arguably, Rob and I have had it easy with our teenager. That still hasn't eliminated the moments when we catch each other's eyes across the room and telepathically ask "What the hell was that?!?!"

People don't hear about the upside nearly enough. There's the chance for a "do over" of your teens. I am not proposing that you live through your teen, but it is a chance to rediscover all of those things that you loved when you were young. I have loved having the chance to share dark teen comedies with Caroline. I've shared my music, humor, and sci fi love. It gives me the chance to forget the draining adultness of my life and snuggle down with snacks and Heather's quotes.

It has also given me the chance to give the advice that I wish I'd been given during my teens. I was raised in an unconventional manner in a very conventional town. Life would have been so much easier if I'd had a road map navigating hygiene, fashion, pop culture, make up, and main stream society. I am not so far removed from it all that I can't steer her in the right direction. We jokingly told Lily that we want her to learn to fly her freak flag, but not too high. My girls and I have become very good at being ourselves, but not so much so that we stand out. We are "human wall paper," quietly pursuing our own interests while following societal norms.

Raising Caroline has given me the chance to remember to be hopeful. I have gotten in the habit of skulking through life waiting for everything to "hit the fan." I am slightly pessimistic and very untrusting. I think back to myself at 18 and I miss that girls. She had such determination. Caroline is so excited about the upcoming presidential election. She has researched and looked for the candidate whose ideas mirror hers. She is full of excited idealism. Me? I just think "Well, politicians are politicians. Eventually they'll stumble and let us down." What kind of attitude is that? Life needs hope! When she texted me asking me to go to a Bernie Sanders Rally with her, I said yes. I would not miss the opportunity to see her get to start to make her mark on life. We all need idealism.

This leads me to the last point, you get to see the results of all of your hard work. All of those late nights and daily battles, the vomit and potty training, the homework battles, the carefully shaping her world, the daily conversation of right versus wrong; it has all lead to this moment. The little girl who people used to think was just a bit "too odd" has grown into this remarkable woman. All of the love we poured into her is now being shared with every child she works with. The insistence that she finish her homework every night and "chunk" projects over weeks has resulted in a work ethic that rivals my own. The security and confidence building has resulted in a young woman who can move past every time someone hurts her. When the hurt becomes big or confusing, she still feels comfortable enough to come talk to us.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Bittersweet Month

Buffy and I walked outside last night and felt the first breeze of autumn. We sniffed wood smoke in the air, and felt it; the end of summer. September has always been such a bittersweet month. It is the end of summer with the promise of new beginnings. It is the chance to make new friends and learn new things. It is new school supplies (especially those pink erasers!) and new shoes. It is the closing in of toes in stiff new sneakers.

For me, it has been the month of my husband's birth and the watching of countless children learning, growing, and moving ever forward. When I was a young mother, September became a month of sorrow, as I watched the Twin Towers fall. Then that sorrow hit closer to home, when I lost my father. After that, it became a month full of more bitter than sweet. Over time, the sweet returned. New students for me, new teachers for the girls. Life moved forward. Then exactly 10 years and 18 days after I lost my father, I lost my mother. That was the hardest blow September had dealt me. 

Now, it is a month of contraries. We speed up to move forward while slowing down to reflect. September is the starting point of something new. it is a month of cautious hope.