Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teenage Independence

Yesterday I picked H up from school to take her to her basketball coach, and as she threw her things into the backseat and jumped into the car, I asked how her day had gone.

"It was great!" she said.

A couple of beats later, she said, "Well, it really was a crummy day, but I had a good attitude so that made it great."

When I asked her what that meant, she explained that this day (Day 2 in her 7-day block schedule), is her least favorite day.  Her least favorite classes, all-school assembly, nothing really 'exciting' to look forward to.  But she said she had started a new "thing" in the mornings.  When her alarm clock goes off, she closes her eyes and thinks of one or two things that she can look forward to, and that makes her whole day go better.

Whoa.  When did she get so smart and insightful?  It's almost like she turned 15, and shed the skin of the 14-year-old she used to be.  Being an only child, she has always been extremely close to J and I.   But suddenly, she is making decisions for herself, making her own plans for afterschool and weekends, packing her own bags, and doing her homework without my help or advice.

She signed up to do "Model UN", a three day weekend in which teams of three high school students represent different countries, propose and defend a bill relating to that country, and all the research and work for that weekend has to be done by next week.  H and her two friends have been working every weekend for several hours on the position papers that have to be turned in.  They are doing this work without asking for help from the parents at all.  It's so strange for me, because I love seeing the work she's doing, and helping her.  I'm having to just step back.

I know this is all good, and very normal at this point.  This is a normal, healthy stage in adolescent development where the child/young adult seeks to pull away from her parents as she attempts to develop an independent identity apart from her family.  I have to learn to let go a little.  In the past, when H would come to me for help in absolutely every decision she needed to make, I secretly loved it.  It validated me and our relationship.  Now that she is asserting her independence, I need to let the ropes out a little.  Hopefully, by letting them out a little at a time, by the time she is an adult and ready to go out into the world she'll be ready to go.

It's an amazing time.  Every day I am amazed at something she has learned or demonstrated in her life.  I know there will be setbacks and failures.  If there weren't, she wouldn't learn anything or progress to the competent adult I know she will be.  My role is to set guidelines, limits, and to be here when she needs me or wants to talk.  So I'm sitting on my hands and biting my lips, and watching the butterfly emerge.