Growing up and letting go

Friday afternoon I asked my teenage daughter, E, to give me an idea for a blog article.  She said “Write about me.”  I said, “What about you?”  Then in typical teenage fashion she said, “I don’t know,” and walked away.

She went to a school “dance” later that night.  I’m not sure how much the kids actually dance at these things, but if they’re anything like the dances I went to when I was a teenager, there’s probably a lot more standing around and staring and talking about each other than dancing.  Of course she looked beautiful – she always looks great when she wants to.

I was a bit nervous saying goodbye to her when the carpool mom came to pick her up.  Having a teenager is a scary thing.  BEING a teenager is a scary thing.  I see-saw between joy and horror several times a day.  It’s a scary world, filled with drugs, sex, social media, bullying and violence.  She and I have had all the talks, and my jaw drops internally sometimes when she comes to me with questions.  I’m THANKFUL she comes to me with these questions, but they frighten me too.  “Mom, what if…”  I HATE those hypotheticals, even more than the questions about sex – and believe me she comes up with questions about THAT that make me blush.

I have never loved my children with a desperate love.  I was smothered by the love of my mother, held back by it, trapped by it – mostly because she was so unhappy, and looked to me to make it better.  That’s a lot of pressure for a little girl.  I’ve been working most of my adult life to get over it.  As a result, I wanted to make sure that I had my head screwed on straight before I became a mother.  I didn’t have all my junk sorted through, (and I still don’t) but at least I knew I couldn’t get my happiness from my kids – that I had to make that for myself.  This is not to say my kids don’t make me happy, what I mean is it’s not fair for me to SAP their happiness from them in order to build my own happiness up.  My job as their mother is to love them without smothering, to guide them, help them when they fall, impart my values to them, and let them go.   From the day they are born, the job of raising our children is really the job of teaching them how to live without us.  That may seem sad, but it’s true.  (At least if we want them to be healthy adults.)

From the time they are born we try to teach them to do things on their own.  Some of these things we call milestones: holding up their head, holding their own bottle, crawling, walking, dressing themselves, potty training – these are all stages in their ever-increasing independence from us.  And pretty soon they’re going off to school, reading,  able to do homework by themselves, hang out at the mall with friends without us, going to the school dance.  Next thing I know, E will graduate from middle school, start high school, drive, then graduate high school and move out.  I just hope and pray that I’ve taught her enough and love her enough, so that she makes wise decisions and trusts herself.  Letting go is hard work.

Just so you know, I picked her up early from the dance.  E and I have a deal that if she’s out anywhere and feels uncomfortable, she can call or text and I’ll come and get her.  When she texted, “pick me up now,” I reached for my coat and was out the door.  My beautiful daughter was getting some male attention that was making her uncomfortable and wanted OUT.   Momma to the rescue.  We spent about a half hour sitting in the car once we got home talking about women’s intuition, going with your gut, teenage hormones, how to make a gracious exit when possible, but also how to get yourself out of a situation by any means necessary when it’s called for.  She’s an awesome young woman, but at 14, is still learning how to find her voice, listen to it and act on it.

Have I said having a teenager is scary?  That BEING one is scary too?


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