Becoming a teenager was a milestone. I was gawky, brooding and confused, driven by a genetically induced need for perfection that limited my creativity and drive but got me through to adulthood intact enough to make a life for myself – with lots of help.
I look at both of my teenage girls and struggle with the realization that that the wisdom, experience and passion I have today is born out of 50 years of highs and lows, steps forward and steps backward, lots of therapy, and many people who have nurtured me along the way.
I watch my daughters, both faced with important, vital decisions and I want to impart my wisdom and experience and shockingly, they don’t want it – and I’m pissed off! I have a feeling my mother might be saying, or at least thinking, “pay back is a bitch huh?”
My oldest is a junior in high school, college is in the foreseeable future and I, not her, am a wreck – certifiably SAT obsessed, hell-bent on starting the college tours, and muttering “how the hell do you f…ing’ pay for this shit” all day every day to anyone who will listen.
On the latter, I might add that the activist in me is irate that this country – purporting to be the best in the world – is allowing its institutions of higher education to actually produce a generation of debt burdened and/or under-educated kids – but that’s another blog.
Stepping down from my soap box, however, I am struggling most with why my daughter doesn’t seem excited about college and why the mere mention of it from me sends her eyes rolling.
She has told me repeatedly to back off, she wants to go to college and will figure it out – yet I cannot let go. I can’t even loosen my grip which I fear is going to result in a year and a half of angst – the last year and a half she and I will have before she ventures in to the world to find her way as a young woman.
As for my younger daughter, she is 13 and struggling in school – not because she doesn’t know what she is doing but because she is not focused nor engaged. And, yes, you guessed it I have turned in to the powerschool police, homework bitch and a master of veiled threats.
What is the answer to this parent paradigm that revolves around how much to trust your children to figure it out, grow up, thrive and be successful and how much and in what ways to help them get there? And if that’s not complicated enough, you have to also understand that both kids require different approaches and attention, so even if you are lucky enough to get it right with the first kid you have to learn it all over again with the second.
The only 2 things I absolutely know is that their happiness, success and emotional well-being are a driving force in my life and I have no idea how to help make that happen for them. I have no answers and most days feel as though I’m swimming upstream.
But it occurs to me as I write this blog that maybe there is no right answer except to keep putting the tools, the opportunities, my experiences when sought and my wisdom when appropriate in front of them and trust that that they will find their way. And hope that if I back off they may actually even seek my help and guidance.