Sweet Sixteen

Last week my family experienced a significant milestone.  My oldest child turned

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In some ways it seems impossible that I could have a sixteen year old.  This is ridiculous of course since I’m just shy of 50.  In reality I could be a grandmother – but we won’t talk about that!  In other ways it also seems impossible that my daughter could be sixteen because, I mean, wasn’t she just starting kindergarten?

It’s a tradition in our household to torture our children with their birth videos and baby pictures and birth stories on their birthdays, and this special birthday was no exception.  I often tease my daughter that she was the only one of my three that kept me up in labor all night long, (she was born at 7am, while my other two were born at night and in the afternoon), and that it was a sign of things to come.  I have indeed lost a lot of sleep over her, especially in her last middle school years and sometimes still as I worry about how she will fare going out into the big bad world sooner now rather than later.

She had such a terrible awful time of it in 7th and 8th grade – actually it was pretty horrifying how badly she felt about herself.  It’s her story to tell if she ever wants to go into the gory details, but from a parent’s perspective there’s no almost no worse feeling than watching your child go through a dark period, knowing there’s nothing you can do to take it away, praying that they don’t succumb to the lies depression or the bullies at school tell them.  Lots of lost sleep, sometimes just watching her sleep, doing my best to WILL her to feel better.  In addition to all this parental worrying, we also had her in therapy.  You don’t just try to will or pray the bad away.  She was over her head, we were over our heads, we needed HELP.  And we got it.  It’s not always easy, I get that.  The financial burden of therapy is huge.  But the pain of a dead child – that’s “huge-er.”

Thankfully her first year of high school was an immense improvement, continuing now into her sophomore year.  She is in quite a few clubs, has many good friends and her grades are just fine (except for Geometry – she’s working on it…).  She works out and trains in mixed martial arts and wrestling (the professional kind, which is what she wants to do for a career – God help us!)   While wanting a very public career, she’s a bit of an introvert in her personal life – like me, needs a lot of “alone” time, so she doesn’t go out a lot – sometimes, but not often.  A sign of this was her sweet sixteen party.  My husband and I were willing to do whatever she wanted, but it was her choice to just have a few friends over for pizza and ice cream, to hang out and laugh and invite them to sleep over if they wished.

In many ways, the personal issues she’s had – along with having pastors for parents and the church work we do with the poor, AND having a younger sister with autism – have made her wise beyond her years.  She is a deep thinker.  She has questioned and stretched her faith in ways I have rarely seen in a teenager.  She is a boundary pusher.  She is unafraid to voice her opinion, even if it’s not popular.  She has a profound  sense of justice and right and wrong – and is passionate about sticking up for the underdog, probably because she feels she IS one.  Don’t get me wrong, she still has plenty of “typical teenage” moments where she shocks me with her self-centeredness and impatience and immaturity – but that’s part of adolescence I think, to vacillate between maturity and childishness.

I worry a lot for her.  I worry about her career choice mostly.  Entertainment is a risky business.  Sports entertainment is not only risky financially – it’s risky physically.  The potential for serious bodily harm is real.  And the potential for being taken advantage of in a field that’s not well regulated and where women aren’t as respected as they could/should be is also high.  I worry a lot about that.  But I’m NOT worried about the kind of person she is and will become.  Whatever profession she chooses, or whatever profession chooses her, I have confidence that she will be the same person she is now, only stronger.  I don’t always agree with her.  I don’t always understand her.  But I am always in awe of her.

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