Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day By Day

The thing I find the hardest about raising a teenager is the day-by-day nature of the job. It is so unpredictable.

To me, teenagerhood is the long process of separating parent and child, or, in my case, mother from daughter. Compounded by the fact that, if I had my own way, we would be together forever :) The problem is that one day they are much older, responsible and mature and the next day they are five again. Back and forth, back and forth.

Generally, the only people who see this inconsistency are the parents. Although, I think deep down, the kids sometimes know and just can't admit it - to the parents and/or to themselves.

This year my daughter started high school (grade 10) and is 15. We had a major hurdle in the first month of school. She came home with a form to spend her grade 11 year abroad. She picked France, it was a no-brainer since she had completed the junior high french immersion program. The criteria for the student applying for this international program was someone who was responsible (check), mature (check), independent (check), social (check), keen (check), strong academics (check), speak a foreign language (check), etc. etc. You get the picture. All of the things I had worked so hard to instill in her in the last 15 years had come to fruition. Oh - she WANTED to go. A LOT! But, she was 15 and I just couldn't send her to France for 12 months. Why was it for 12 months? Why not 4 or 6? An entire year is a long time. I know my girl. I know she could do it. But after 4-6 months she would be ready to come home and then the spot would be vacant. That's not fair to someone else. Maybe she would want to stay the entire year, but my best guess as her mother was that it would be too long. I fully expect and hope that she will study a year abroad during her university time. Grade 11 is just a bit too soon. Needless to say, that decision did not go over well and was extremely difficult to make.

It has been like that all year. She is ready, meets the criteria, wants to - but something else, something I can't really explain to her but know in my heart, isn't quite ready and I have to say no. Mostly I think it's life experience. Oh, the agony. For her and me.

How do you let them go, bit by bit? Wanting them to be responsible, but knowing they aren't. Wanting them to deal with the consequences so they can learn, but knowing they're still young and maybe afraid to try (but they will never say). Wanting them to taste success knowing that means they have to taste failure.

I find it hard, so hard. One week I am sitting too close to her in church, embarrassing her so the next week I try to sit further apart and then I am chastised for ignoring her. Sort of a no-win situation. She can't wait to graduate and begin her life far away from me yet is nervous to go on a 5 day trip without me. Sort of no-win for her too I guess. Wanting so desperately to be grownup, not wanting to be a child anymore. But old enough now to know what it means to give up being a kid, the freedom, the carefreeness, the "having someone else do the work needed/be responsible for it".

Lately, it's wanting to know the weather forecast to be able to dress appropriately and then mad at me when the weather changes and she could have worn shorts, or it didn't rain, or she didn't need that jacket. I just look at her and stare. She is starting to realize that grownups don't know everything, can't control everything and maybe that's scary for her too - not to mention disappointing and depressing to understand that she won't be getting these superpowers either when she hits the age of majority. That it's hard work and luck and faith and EFFORT that makes things happen.

Like figuring out the bank machine isn't a magic box that spits out money on demand - that someone, somehow had to put that money IN first, before they can take it out :)

I find the responsibility for schoolwork especially draining. She wants to be in control of her studying, her homework, her schedule. So we let her. But how long do you wait before you step in when she's not living up to her end of the bargain. You try to wait and let her figure it out - she has to learn how to figure it out - but she's young and only in high school once and she has such potential and you want to help her realize her dreams and plans and sometimes she just isn't looking far enough ahead and staying focussed, but it's her life not yours...sigh. So hard.

I am frustrated a lot of the time. She is not like me. She happens to be a lot like my sister. It was hard for me to live with my sister and now I am doing it all over again. It's hard for her too I'm sure. I am not like her.

Another big thing is that I have always told her/taught her/encouraged her to stand up for herself and her positions and thoughts and ideas and opinions, especially if they are important to her. That people will not always agree with her and that it is hard, but sometimes you have to go on without their approval. And that sometimes, she will have to go up against me. That she will feel strongly about something and that may be different from how I feel. And if it is that important to her, she may have to continue without my approval (but always with my love). That is hard for her. I think she has seen my love as "agreement" and feeling the same about things. Now she is developing into her own person, or realizing the own person she has always been, and that sometimes that person is different from Mommy. Sometimes that is difficult for both Mommy and daughter. But when you feel stongly about something, sometimes you have to hold your ground.

That's where the love comes in. Always SAY it. Always go for the hug, even when it is refused. Always want to talk, be open to talking, to singing, to goofing around, to whatever she wants to do.

If I take each day as it comes, it is a much smaller chunk of life to deal with. So that's my general plan of attack.

I have never loved anyone like I love her. I am amazed by that. I am amazed by her and the person she is. She will never fully get that. I know that. That is not a problem for me.

Day by day, we just take it day-by-day.