It’s different when they come to you at ten. Perhaps that’s obvious in it’s rarity.
Andrew and I wavered in extremes of over parenting and acting aloof in ‘not caring’ about minor infractions, for instance once I read on facebook that creating a checklist is good for children, so I did that, but then a counselor told me that subconsciously she may feel untrusted by being given one, “BUT!” I responded.
“BUT! Do I remind about tooth brushing EVERYDAY to a teenager!?”
“Well, at this point, it’s really her problem…” she told me…
I had already spoken up loudly once in this session, anymore and it would be a waste of money. Although this clearly couldn’t be true… although I felt part of me feeling like I should agree with this on some cosmic, peaceful level. Teeth are just so permanent and ‘in your face’ (I apologize for how funny I think that it, but I also appreciate I can now laugh about this, good job me.)
So then came the acting. Like I was ‘acting’ when I told her she could throw the list away a few years ago and I was ‘acting’ when I told her I trusted she knew how to take care of herself. I was ‘acting’ because I was believing that people do well with this kind of trust and pressure.
I was relying more on the pressure.
I was acting the first couple times I noticed fuzzy teeth by afternoon, and acted aloof. But–overtime, things evened out, and I wasn’t overworking or overcompensating. Things got great in the self care dept.
Parenting has literally been guessing and acting and a ton of driving.
And she started taking great care of herself, and becoming her own person, and graduated from ELD class, and volunteering, and got her driving permit, and DOESN’T get cavities, so, in my face, I guess. I guess we’re all doing great, or better.
Last night we played a card game with the older kids and grandparents with square cards with deeply personal or uniting questions, it’s made in the Netherlands, so you know it’s good.
“What are some habits your family has that makes them healthy?” Maria answered that we have family dinners together and talk. Yes we talk and we get very real, and we think it’s normal, until we see it from the outside, like over the weekend when all Maria’s friends were here for her birthday party that they were still feeling new to the home and they were circled around our table munching BBQ chips to do something with their hands, and Maria asked, “What’s your biggest fears?” so Andrew and I slowly slipped out of THAT room very quickly and questioned our parenting for a second,“Is that what she thinks in normal? Is that our default?” Then we shrugged, not our problem. Not acting.
Turns out all the girls are in the same church small group and very self aware so they loved it, and the party moved on swimmingly. It was more of a reflection of their own ecosystem than anything else. Then we played Charades and let them alone to be cute, they all got her thoughtful presents and clapped for her, and encouraged her. She opened another journal with a bible verse across it and starbucks card and Poppy yelled from her seat of a teen lap, “YOU’RE RICH!” The girls lingered, and everyone was happy and comfortable, and Finley declared he was inviting all the teens to his birthday party too, “Cause they’re SO NICE!”
We had wanted her to have real, good friends for years and years. But it never happened, there were some hopes a few times, but nothing panned out. I had my opinions why, married to solutions, I am an ‘aggressive problem solver’ as my enneagram tells me, but after a couple years, I left it alone. “Maybe she’s an introvert who truly likes just reading, crafts and family time…” I had no response to this obvious falsehood same counselor told me… But I digressed. Either way, this time if someone questioned me, I had paid advise that I could point to. To question it would be like throwing away money.
Sitting around our living room with girls who wanted to spend time with her, and her family members and gave her wrapped framed photos of them together at winter camp and I literally didn’t know teens knew how to print pictures.
When I gave her a printer paper receipt (my go to when I order something last minute that hasn’t arrived yet) of “The LO Box” made by her Queen Sadie Robertson, a customized box of items to ‘host your own bible study’ Maria told me, and I didn’t tell her, ‘but you’re already in a bible study,’ I just bought it because then I wouldn’t need to go shopping. And when she opened, well, I mean, unfolded the paper, and and yelled with delight about hosting her own bible study, all her friends raised their hands, “I WANT TO JOIN!” and “WHAT ARE THE DATES!?” and I thought, wow, these kids are so dang cute. And Maria excited, asked me “When is the box coming?” And I said, “SOON!” because I didn’t know, and I said it enthusiastically because it was her birthday.
The girls lingered and they were sad to see the younger siblings shuffled to bed, but not as sad as the siblings marching away from a PARTY TO THEIR BEDS of which there is no deeper injustice. The girls made summer plans, and shared photos on some common photo location Andrew created for them and talked about their futures and wanting to do ministry, they all nodded to that one, and they spoke to me like composed, heartfelt young adults and I thought, “Wow, these girls are something special.”
If someone would have told me about this night during my check list days, perhaps I would have let it go without ripping it from my own fist. And next year, Maria will be an adult, and technically responsible for her own teeth financially, but the fact that she doesn’t actually need any help in that area is a testament to both of our growth as people, as a family and as consumers of floss.
Happy 17th birthday Maria! We love you, and you are very loved by many, many, many.