There was a movie released the year my oldest daughter was born called “Raising Helen”. The movie was about a woman who became the legal guardian of her sister’s kids upon said sister’s death. The movie hit home a bit about the sudden changes related to parenting.
“I’m hanging on by a thread here. I lost my sister, my social life, my disposable income, my ability to fit into a size 2, and – this just in – my job. Pretty much the only two things that haven’t disappeared are my nicotine fits and a few pounds that have recently taken up residence on my a…”
You get the picture. It was difficult to transition to parenthood. But it was NEVER difficult to love my daughter who is now a teenager with two younger sisters. She has raised me as much as I have raised her in this journey together.
Teenage years are tough. REALLY tough. My mother told me, the hardest thing you will ever have to do is grow up. Let that sink in a minute. This advice continues to be important, since we grow up our entire lives. But it meant a whole lot in those tough years coming from my mom. I just needed to know that I could stop holding my breath, that we are all evolving and growing and I didn’t need to meet some baseline standard of emotional maturity, intelligence, or accomplishment. I was growing up, just like my classmates, and just like my mother. Someone will yell, someone will fail a test, and someone will forget to do something. All of those may be your mother. The only thing growing up requires is that you learn from it, and try again with your gained knowledge. It was validating to hear my mother say this was difficult, always.
My daughter is so incredibly different from me. Where I compete, she’s happiest on the sidelines providing support. Where I write, she draws. Where I’m loud, fast and impatient, she’s soft spoken, maddeningly calm and patient. She’s able to tell me, now, how I should calm down and not be explosive. I can tell her to hurry up or she will never get there. I’m certain that God knows just how to orchestrate people in and out of our lives to challenge the weakest parts of our development.
Recently, my daughter has brought up some very difficult topics. I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know the best way to work through them. But, the fact that I can recognize that is a milestone for me. I like to wrap things up in a neat little to-do list and “fix it”. Growing up with this girl has taught me that is not always the best approach, or even possible. What I can tell her is this: I am with you every step of the way. You have my love, and the leeway to become your own person.
“Teenage problems” are life problems. I hope every parent will treat their teenager with dignity and appreciation for the depth in which problems affect their child’s emotional development. We are likely still facing the same problems, labeled differently, at 35 and 45 years old. We are all growing up.
I’ll leave you with another scene from Raising Helen:
Teenage Girl: What is the matter with you? Don’t you remember what it’s like to be young?
Helen: Of course I do… it was last Wednesday!