Although she is my third, I have to say that I still do not understand the mind of a teenager. Try as I might, I can’t seem to wrap my brain around the thought processes that I once owned myself. It’s so counterintuitive, isn’t it? As parents, we have once been a teenager, so it would follow that their logic would be transparent to us. It doesn’t really work that way, however.
I have had one goal for the summer for my daughter, who is 15. Before school begins, I want that room clean, neat, and clutter-free. She will be a sophomore this year, and I want her to begin school in an environment that will foster success. For me, that means organization, simplicity, and a bit of serenity. Simple, right?
School begins tomorrow for her; and as of yesterday, her room was chaos. The floor was covered in discarded clothes, books, unpacked bags from summer trips, and so much trash that I considered explaining the concept of a garbage can. I began to despair of ever meeting my goal for her, because I couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of it to her. I nagged on and off all during the summer break, continued to insist and demand, but there was always something more important, to her.
As I watched the days fly by on the calendar, and the mess grow deeper and deeper, I was discouraged. How do I help her to understand the importance of this in her life? I knew, as her mother, that the responsibility was mine. These ideas should have been instilled in her long ago; and knowing this just makes me feel a bit inadequate as a parent. She was the youngest of three, raised by a single mother. I read all the parenting manuals and websites touting the image of toddlers neatly picking up their toys, tweens who are highly organized, and teens who thrive on high achievement. As guilt-inducing as those were, I continued to read them, drawn to some utopian ideal of parenting that I just couldn’t implement.
I knew that it could be done, HAD to be done, and when the time was right, it would be done. I waited patiently for that time to arrive.
I am pleased to announce that the time arrived at 10 pm last night. The moment was right, the momentum was working for me, and we were ready. I was a bit daunted by the hour and the task ahead of us, but I could not hesitate once the moment was upon us. We began, slowly at first, until the momentum began to carry us along. We talked, laughed, and worked. As we talked, I think she felt the amount of caring that had been behind all of that nagging. The experience, although exhausting, was a bonding one for us! Who knew?
At 2 am this morning, we sat in a bedroom that looked serene, neat, and ready for a new school year. More importantly, there was so much love in that room that we didn’t want the night to end. We talked awhile about the coming year, our hopes for it, and ways in which we could build on our success of the night. It was an amazing experience for me, and I hope that it was for her, as well. Her pride in her accomplishment touched me, and made me all the more eager to help her be as successful as she can possibly be.
Having been a teenager, I should have known what would work for her, how to help her understand. What I have realized is that with each generation, being a teen is a unique experience unto itself. So much depends upon the time, the culture, the outside pressures, and the child as an individual. I think that is what makes parenting a teen so exciting and challenging.
As for me? I’m just thrilled that school is beginning tomorrow and my daughter will be off to a running start. I’m so proud of her; and I’m so proud of us both!
Happy New School Year,