Monday, April 12, 2010


At 12:12 am, Sunday, April 11th, I became the proud mother of a teenager. The Not-So-Little One is 13, an age that strikes terror in the hearts of parents. I have received plenty of condolences and advice from seasoned warriors that survived the battleground known as adolescence. And... I rebuke it all. I should say WE rebuke it, as my daughter has reminded me over and again that she is not the typical teenager. I tend to agree with her. She is my child, and she is a child of God, created by Him and designed with tremendous potential.

I have decided to condemn neither my daughter nor myself to a horrific adolescence. Call it high hopes, call it great expectations, call it famous last words - I call it the better choice. As a human being I have the absolute right to choose to dread the future or to look forward to it. I am in the business of teaching people that there is a powerful relationship between their thoughts and their behaviors, and it is modeling good mental health for me to take a positive attitude.

High hopes and great expectations come with responsibilities, however. I choose those, too. If I expect my child to be successful, I must accept her success. If I expect her to grow, I must provide an environment in which to grow. If I expect her to trust me enough to communicate with me, I must make it safe for her to trust. And if she does not succeed or grow or trust, I must acknowledge the possibility that I did something to thwart her efforts.

Human beings, even the adolescent ones, want to feel as if they have some control over their lives. Children are mostly powerless in this world. They possess neither the experience nor the wisdom to take control, and naturally adults are responsible for their safety and well-being. In their zealousness, adults forget to look for ways in which children can have some power and control. Have I allowed her to have any?

Human beings, even adolescent ones, want to feel as if they are significant, as if they are valued. They are full of ideas and schemes and plans, and often they are reminded that they can't possibly know anything about anything. Their dreams are picked right out of the sky by the practiced marksmanship of the well-meaning adult. (How is that any different from the much-loathed 13-year-old eye roll?) Have I used her musings for target practice?

Human beings, even adolescent ones, want to feel safe. Safe to feel the full range of emotions. Safe to express those emotions. Safe to talk about them. They learn to feel, express, and discuss through experimentation. A researcher conducting a scientific experiment considers a mistake to be a detour, not a dead end. Have I taught her to fear failing?

My kid will make mistakes. She will challenge me. She will likely infuriate me. I will not want to admit that I may have contributed to the problem, but I WILL admit it. I will choose to see her as the wonderful human being that she was designed to be, not as the mere sum of her mistakes. I will embrace the responsibility that accompanies expectation. And I will hope.