When my children were born I had this sense that I would get to watch them grow up over time. I watched as little by little they changed and learned. Each milestone was photo worthy – rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling themselves up, walking, talking. The first few years went by in a flurry of camera flashes to record each precious moment.
But at some point the obvious physical changes slowed down. The learning continued but not in a way that was easy to document with pictures. They learned to dress themselves, pick up their toys, share, and eventually read, write and so much more.
Suddenly my daughter is about to turn 13. Suddenly she’s fighting to become her own person, no longer going along with what I say just because I’m the mom. Suddenly she’s more critical than praising, more disagreeable than agreeable, more independent than dependent.
I know this is all part of growing up. I want her to question and challenge me, or at least the part of me that wants her to grow up to be a strong woman does. I am her safe space. I am the person she can challenge who will always love her.
I need to teach her to challenge and question respectfully. There are right and wrong ways to do it. But teenagers need the freedom to grow into an independent human being. They need to be allowed to make mistakes now so that they can learn there are consequences to their actions, beyond the ones I dole out. It can be hard to stand by and watch, knowing I could help but also knowing that allowing her to make these mistakes is better than any advice I can give her.
Suddenly I need to learn how to be the parent of a teenager. It’s not going to be easy. I know that. But I also know that she will grow up to be a beautiful, strong, independent leader. She will know she can do whatever she decides. I will support her the best I can, but I also know that one day, suddenly, she will be on her own.