I have arrived in new parenting territory… It didn’t happen overnight, I have been quietly observing this transition for the last year or so. It is a part of every parents journey – the emergence of the adolescent.
My daughter is 11 years old and earlier this week said goodbye to elementary school. She has grown so much during this last year – academically, socially, physically. Yes, she has been changing since the first moment she was laid in my arms, but this change, this transformation, is different.
It’s the way her face looks, the way she moves and lives in her body. It’s the care she takes with her hair, her clothes. She is aware of herself in a new way, realizing that the world is aware of her and wanting to have a hand in what they see.
Sometimes it does feel as though adolescence showed up suddenly. I catch myself watching her, intrigued by this new way of being she is embodying. I am both excited and leary of the time ahead, knowing that it will be full of excitement and heartbreak…
My daughter has always been sensitive and thoughtful, cautious in how she interacts with others. She has an observer mentality, holding back until she is comfortable with joining in.
On one hand, I hope that this serves her as she moves through the next part of her life… I hope that the observer she is remains true and shows up when she finds herself in peer pressure situations. I also find myself pushing her a bit to get out of that comfort zone, requesting she orders her own dinner when we go out to eat, speaks for herself when she has a question or a request to make of another adult.
It is a strange time. Experiencing adolescence as the adult in the relationship is a trip… I believe that I know how she feels, that I can see solutions to her problems… I want to tell her, to save her from the pain to make her life easier.
Anyone who has kids over the age of 11 know how well that turns out…
Besides, there is absolutely no room in her brain to believe that I have any idea what I am talking about, not to mention how clearly infuriating it is when I turn out to be right.
So I practice being available. I practice holding on while I let go. I practice keeping my mouth shut and my heart open as I feel the emotional roller coaster that can show up out of nowhere for my sweet daughter. I hold a space of non-judgment (as hard as that is) and unconditional love.
I want her to know that no matter what shows up for her, I can handle it. I want her to trust that I will listen to her, just listen, when she needs me to. I want her to seek out my advice, when she wants it.
I’m not naïve, I know that she will be continuously pulling away from me, and seeking support from her peers. I recognize that this is natural and normal and important as she explores who she is separate from her family. I know that she won’t share everything with me, that parts of her experiences she has from here on out will be hers to hold…
But I plan on doing all I can to stay in relationship with her.
It will be my job to hold boundaries, it will be her job to push them. It will be my job to stay calm and present, it will be her job to feel her feelings and live through meltdowns… It will be my job to keep my arms open, it will be hers to decide when she wants to be held…. Holding on, while letting go.
She continues to be my teacher. I have no doubt that this period of adolescence will bring with it lessons and growth for me in abundance. And with my heart open, I stand ready.