Thursday, December 8, 2011

Waxing Moons and Teenage Daughters

The moon is apparently 96% full this evening but considering the erratic emotions of my almost teenaged daughter, I could have told you that without even looking in the sky. My daughter turns thirteen in a matter of four months, and there has already been an incredible seismic shift in her behavior these last few weeks.

I've worked with teenage girls for over twenty years now, so I know this beast fairly well, probably too well to feel at all comfortable with the phase into which our family is entering. And yet, like the tentative fear/thrill one feels before going on a new amusement park ride, there is something slightly invigorating about the volatility of this unstable element under my roof right now. I suppose this is why I have been working with teenage girls for twenty years, because these are truly formative years. My daughter is "becoming" right before my eyes, that is exciting, but what is so scary is that we are walking the most ancient, most rickety, most threadbare of rope bridges across a cavernous abyss of the mother/daughter impasse. Any wrong move could be disasterous.

The question I realize now, more than "will she be strong enough to survive the perils", is, "will I be strong enough"? Will I be able to let her fail? Let her hurt? Let her make her own bad decisions without swooping in for the save? Can I guide without judging? Can I support without suffocating? Can I edge along the precipice with her, so she knows that she indeed is taking these risky steps of independence on her own, but she is not alone. I'm still right there. Can I watch her foot step on the creaky cracking boards and hang back enough to let her know that she must be courageous, but that I am still there to guide her through to the stronger slats if she'll take the time to listen to me.

When she turns her back on me, will I still stay within reach, so when she needs that guidance again, she'll still hear my voice helping her to the other side? I am flooded with these questions perhaps because the moon waxes for both mother and daughter, and as her emotions ebb and flow the tides pull me with her.

Last week it was a huffy "fine, then I'll walk", a lost cell phone without a mom blow-up, but then a decision to go "somewhere else" with a pretty severe mom blow-up and consequences. Further, today I had to let her deal with her own consequences because of irresponsible behavior, and when she wanted to run and hide, I had to make her face the music and make it clear that building resilience is one of the greatest gifts I can give her right now.

She is strong, I have faith she will thrive through her growth and maturing these next few years, but I also know I must be stronger so I can continually be there to nurture her along the way, no matter how tentatively we must walk that bridge together.

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