Posts tagged ‘teenager’

2014/03/26

Courageous Conversations

Tile-Strength-and-CourageRaising a teenager is almost like having a never-ending Courageous Conversation. It feels like all things lead to some teaching point based on the various sometimes-sudden moods, the social pressures, and the transformation that my daughter Emma is going through. She’s caught in that world between kid and not-quite-old-enough.

I walk with her, and she walks with me, my imperfections no longer hidden or sugarcoated. It is crystal clear that I don’t have all the answers, and unlike her younger years, a simple kiss on a “boo-boo” after a fall on the playground isn’t enough to chase all her tears away. I’m realizing that sometimes the best thing I can give her is presence and prayer.

I see her shying away from being open with good friends at times. I encourage her towards conversation, especially through conflict. And I see how challenging that can be in an age of texting and Snapchat. Everything is so instant with this pressure to respond quickly before thought even has a chance to intervene.

Good conversation takes time and effort, and to have any depth, it takes honesty. I find it takes courage to be honest with her about some of the mistakes—the big ones—I made along the way. And despite the fact that my flaws are pretty apparent, it is admittedly a work in progress. I guess I fear if I’m “too honest” that it might do damage in a way I can’t perceive.

As a freelance writer and editor, I spend time a good amount of time reading and editing books, and I have worked on several life stories the last few years. I know the authors well enough to know that it wasn’t easy for any of them to put their secrets on the page, where even close family members would know things about them that they never knew.

But I also see the freedom those writers have experienced in that type of courageous expression, modeling how our personal stories in even their most raw parts can be redeemed and used to help other people on the journey. And that is what I’m striving for with Emma. I want to keep stepping forward, whether I’m feeling brave or not, to have those tough conversations.

I know my words and honesty can’t keep her from failing or making mistakes of her own. But my story and the stories of those around her can help her see that though we are all flawed, our life stories—with bumps, bruises, U-turns, and dead ends as well as victories, celebrations, and glorious horizons—make a beautiful tapestry that is meant to be shared. It just takes a little bit of courage.

 

This post originally appeared on the C3 Nashville blog. C3, held March 6-8, 2014, is an annual event where participants engage in topics related to culture and faith. This year’s theme was Courageous Conversations.

2013/10/30

Recovery in Question

Recovery in question...

Recovery in question…

Emma turns 14 this weekend. I can’t really believe that 14 years have passed. I can’t believe that in 4 or 5 years my nest might be empty. To celebrate this momentous birthday, an age marking awkwardness but also independence, we are having a party. Not just a party, but a Masquerade Ball.

It is sooooo Emma. There’s a dress code for boys and girls. There’s a fabulous menu, beautiful masks, a long song list for DJ Doug. And I’m hoping the songs I don’t know won’t embarrass me or the other adult guests coming or that my dance moves don’t embarrass my daughter. Who am I kidding?

In the vein of throwing a classy party, I mean Ball, we are trying to stay away from the usual party fare of chex mix and BBQ wienies. But since our budget won’t allow for a caterer, I’m the chef at hand. That sounded like a great plan when we were leisurely driving over fall break, planning the menu and decor.

Now in a week that has turned stupid by all of the things that have hard and fast deadlines, including the Ball, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. I’ve had delicious moments of energy and productivity, but the pile is so very large and daunting on both professional and home fronts. So the other side is me barking and grumbling and nagging for someone in the universe to please help! Like someone who is 13.95 years old who I live with…“Hey you there, offspring, help me!”

The result is sorry-filled teenager staring blankly. “What can I do?” her eyes and voice say.

Indeed, what can she do for this always-setting-the-bar-too-high mess of me? I like to think I am a recovering perfectionist, but am I really recovering? Am I putting all of this pressure on myself? Have the “shoulds” taken over?

I think my perfectionism was dampened in Emma’s younger years due to the perfect storm of going through the trauma of divorce, transitioning to single parenthood, and scrambling for income at every turn. It was a period in my life that basically showed me that failure is a launching point. It was the first time I really started seeing and understanding grace at work so that I could accept it and begin to extend it to others.

But I tell you, there are times now since Emma has entered into this age of pushing back and stretching her wings, that I feel like that old person again. It’s like I’m grasping for more control by boxing her in with too high standards and my way of doing things. How can she learn to be her own person, to be her own capable adult, with this kind of perfectionist bullying?

She can’t.

On our chalkboard where we write the dinner possibilities for the week, where there is now a pumpkin face, I sometimes write, “Harp less, encourage more.”

This statement is totally 100% for me and no one else in the house. Not for Emma, not for our cat Mo, not for anyone else who comes to visit. It’s just for me. It’s where I want to live but sometimes find it so hard to live out.

In my mind the week where this important milestone of 14 happened for the one and only time in Emma’s life, looked so different. I was going to be a little more Martha Stewart + Jesus, calm, organized, brilliantly creative and loving. I feel more like Jeff Lewis from Flipping Out, obsessive, frantic, and demanding (minus the psychics and “scream therapy,” though maybe that would help at this point).

And I’m realizing that I need that statement from our chalkboard now more than ever. But this time I need to say it to myself.

“Harp less, encourage more.”

Stop trying to do too much. Stop worrying so much. Stop striving so much. Stop beating yourself up. Hug more. Pause more. Love more. Celebrate.

And maybe, just maybe if I can resolve to put less pressure on myself to be more than I really can be anyway, I can let go and enjoy the process and the time with Emma between here and this celebration and even, God willing, beyond.

Lord, thank you for loving recovering perfectionists like me. Help me, in the moments where I stop to listen to you, and feel your love, to then live out of that reservoir and not return to my silly way of striving and pushing. Amen.