My daughter just turned 13. I’m presently stuck between feeling very proud and very old. She’s an incredible young woman—responsible, smart, caring and conscientious. I don’t pretend I’m the one who made her that way, but I’m definitely reaping the benefits.
I’ve spoken with many mothers who are in the same boat as me, trying to keep our heads above water and hoping our kids don’t end up in therapy because of us. And then I’ve talked with the kids who actually did end up in therapy because of their moms—children who are now adults, wanting to forget and start over and make the pain disappear. I find myself wondering if my child will one day be sitting in a counselor’s office trying to work through the same things. How can I steer this boat on a course that helps my daughter reach functioning adulthood?
As I ask these questions (and breathe heavily into a paper bag), I’m strategizing. I know I can’t keep my daughter from harboring bitterness against me because of my mistakes, but I will do everything I can to foster a culture of love, forgiveness and grace in our house. Here are a few things I’m trying:
Making Room for Conversation
For almost a year, my daughter and I have gone out for coffee every Saturday. I’m not sure if she wants to spend time answering all my weird questions, but she does enjoy mocha frappuccinos. I ask her how friend stuff and boy stuff is going. I ask her if she’s facing any struggles. I ask her what God is teaching her. And I tell her about what I’m going through, as well. She doesn’t need to know all the gory details, of course, but I figure this is what it looks like to slowly become more of a consultant and less of a command-giver. If my daughter doesn’t see that I’m human, she won’t extend to me the grace that I so desperately need. So we drink our coffee, and I listen to her talk about the drama that is seventh grade. I try not to tell her how to handle every situation. I find that when I ask her how she’s handling it, I’m pleasantly surprised by her wisdom.
Location, Location, Location
I want to put myself in a position to be near to what my daughter is doing. This has meant establishing some boundaries. She doesn’t do her homework upstairs or play on the computer by herself or talk on the phone behind closed doors. She isn’t connected to Facebook or Twitter. I know which contacts are in her phone, and she knows the phone belongs to me. Therefore, I can look at her messages at any time I choose. This rule was made clear the moment she got a phone, and it will be the rule until the moment she moves out of the house. Our family believes privacy is not a right for teenagers; it’s a privilege. She earns greater privileges as she proves her trustworthiness, but it’s a slow process. Limiting her interaction with virtual communication helps keep her in actual communication with our family.
My daughter is way past the age of believing I never mess up. Trying to hide my mistakes from her only makes me look like a hypocrite. So I make a point to tell her when I make a mistake. She’s starting to hear more from me about my bad attitude, poor choices and shortcomings. I have found that when I talk about these things with her, she’s more prone to talk about her own mistakes. She knows it’s okay.
It may only get harder from here. We’re at the tip of the teenage iceberg, and I know I could sink this ship at any moment. Fortunately, I’m not alone. I’m adopted by a heavenly Father who wants even greater things for my daughter than I do. He is her Protector and Helper, and He’s mine, too. I trust Him to do the hard work and to grant me wisdom to navigate these years. I’m praying that both my daughter and I learn a deeper trust in Him along the way.