Yesterday I started blogging an unplanned series on adolescence.
There were golden nuggets of info that I wished I had known when I entered this new stage of parenting 6 years ago. (Yes, I felt the shift the year my daughter was turning 12.)
I made a decision to share, to open up a dialogue on this sensitive parenting topic, and posted part one yesterday.
To recap how I ended off, I talked about the questions people have for me:
I was asked the question how do I think my children will deal with “real life” when they get out there after being sheltered and protected in my homeschool bubble? I’ve been asked this before. I’ve been asked how my children will deal with bullying as adults when they’ve never face it as a child. I’ve been asked how they will deal with the stress of tests and deadlines. I’ve been asked how they will handle the stresses and pressures of daily life if they have never felt stressed-induced anxiety.
Today as I answer these questions, I want to share a couple of stories about my eldest daughter. It is rare that I talk about her but I texted her this question (sarcastic in tone of course because that’s how we roll),
“Can I blog about how great you are?”
I say this because she is amazing. I am grateful to be able to witness her unfolding into this young woman. She is one of the most remarkable teenagers I have ever met. I say this not so that my husband and I can take the credit but because we surrendered to the reality that she is carving her own path.
Even though I had braced myself for the crazy roller coaster ride of teenagehood, I haven’t felt that at all. It’s been more of a deepening of motherhood. She has been my mirror reflection, my conscience, and yes, my judge and jury at times. But it has helped me confront my own insecurities and fears and I have grown right alongside her, remembering to apologize for not completely getting things right on the first attempt.
My eldest daughter left for Paris on Sunday.
This is the fourth trip that she will go on this year. In the last two years, this will be the fourth time that she has been abroad without us. She isn’t doing community work or is associated with a program for this trip to Paris. She is visiting her Parisian friends, her roommates from her Argentina trip. My two 25 year old cousins went with her too. They are renting an apartment for the week to go sightseeing and to have fun. My daughter paid for the trip. By working almost full-time hours, she has quickly learned the value of time and money.
On the night before she left, it dawned on me that I hadn’t even checked if she had everything.
She assured me, “I have my euros although I may exchange a little more money at the airport. I have my passport and I have taken a picture of it and will send to you. I have my parental consent travel letter. I finished packing on Tuesday. I printed out my boarding ticket. I’m good, Mom.”
I’m good, Mom.
I kept that child home for most of middle school and the last three years of high school. Technically, she is in grade 12. She has been able to travel thousands of miles away on her own. She was left on a bus in rural Argentina and had to find her way back after getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with beginner Spanish. I asked her if she was scared. She said, “No. I remember what you told me about following my gut and I believe that it happened to me because it was supposed to happen to me. I’m glad it happened to me. I had to trust in life and the goodness of people.”
To address some of those aforementioned questions I get from outsiders, I have to look at this daughter for the answers. She took her written driving test and passed. A week ago, she took her oral exam for her Spanish university course and received 100%. She thinks that she has never been bullied although in hindsight she suspects that she might have been or that a girl was just really mean in general. And when I asked her what she would do if she would be bullied as an adult, she said, “First I don’t think I would let that happen. But if it did, I would leave the situation.” Being involved through volunteering in community programs here and abroad, she has witnessed more of the “real world” than most 17 year olds.
A few weeks ago, we went out for brunch, just the three of us – my husband, myself, and my daughter. She outlined her plan for the upcoming year. Her excitement and euphoria brought tears to my eyes. She is enthusiastic about learning and what life has to offer. This doesn’t mean that she won’t encounter challenges or struggles, but she is engaged with life joyfully and enthusiastically.
Now all my children are different. They will walk different paths and test their independence in different ways. Maybe they won’t all be world travellers although seeing their big sis go out into the world is a huge confidence booster to all of them and their eyes have been opened to dreaming big. My daughter had a vision board and has visited a lot of the countries that were on it.
What I do know for sure is that I have not sheltered them from the world. I have sheltered them from feeling disconnected and isolated. I have sheltered them from labels. I have sheltered them from hearing too many outside voices that would drown out their own. I have sheltered them from pressures that are unnecessary for childhood. Yes you heard me. UNNECESSARY.
I won’t deny it or be apologetic about it. Yes I have created this bubble of safety and security to protect them. But not from the world. I want to protect them from systems that are built to inhibit and that kill creativity and that don’t honour different ways to learn and to grow.
I have wanted them to love themselves so that they may love the world and when it is time to open up to the world, they are ready to meet it with a solid foundation of self-awareness and the capacity to follow their intuition. I have given them time to sit still, to be alone with themselves, to wander, and to wonder. I have helped them build their toolkit of ways to remember that they always have a choice and how to take care of themselves.
Even if I didn’t homeschool, I would find ways to de-emphasize the importance of the unessentials that stress children out – tests, grades, and peers.
All of these things have helped me do the one thing that this tumultuous stage of growth – adolescence – needs from us parents. (And even the psychotherapist in one of the parenting sessions at the symposium mentioned this parenting must.)
What’s the one thing?
Tune in tomorrow…