Monday, January 24, 2011

She's not Me

I don’t have a lot of TV shows that I watch on a regular basis, but “Parenthood” is fast becoming my favorite, because of the way they portray parenting teenage daughters and other family issues. Sometimes I think the writers must have lived in my house and spied on my family to get ideas for the show. In a recent episode, single (divorced) mom Sarah had a heart to heart with her teenage daughter Amber. Amber had signed up to play guitar and sing at a local bar for their “open mic” night, and reluctantly played a little of the song she was working on for her mom. Sarah’s well-intended advice was not taken very well, and Amber completely shut down and refused to play anything else for her mom, announcing that she was no longer going to perform at the open mic night. Later in the episode, Sarah sat down with Amber, and their conversation went something like this…

Sarah: “I’m sorry you’re not playing at the open mic thing. I feel really bad about that.
Amber: Rolls her eyes and twists her mouth.

Sarah: “You know, one day, when you have kids…if you have kids…there’s something you should know. This confusing thing they don’t tell you about. You see so much of yourself in them…your ironic take on the world, your smile, your sense of humor, your walk…and you think they’re you…but they’re not. And they shouldn’t have all your baggage, your fears, your insecurities and your life experience. They have their own.”

Then she went on to tell her that her song was beautiful…haunting, moving, and so…her. She told her she was so proud of her and that was what she should have said in the first place.

It’s ironic that I watched this episode this afternoon, after I had a long conversation with my daughter. It was an incredibly open and emotional conversation, and one in which she got angry with me for the second time in 24 hours for assuming I knew how she felt.
She was telling me about a social situation she’d been going through, and the dilemma she had been facing regarding how to handle it, and I immediately jumped in to tell her how I would handle it. My gut reaction was based on my own experiences in high school, combined with a lifetime of lessons learned and disappointments faced. The problem with that is, she hasn’t gone through any of that yet. She doesn’t have the hesitations based on disappointment. She doesn’t have fear based on memories of failure. She is bright eyed, optimistic, and of course, a little nervous about things she hasn’t faced yet.

Why should I do anything to dampen that spirit of hers? Why should I add even one more thing for her to worry about…something that hasn’t happened to her yet? She has to go through these things on her own, form her own opinions and let her own experiences shape her future. I should be here to listen, to cheer her on, and yes, to guide her gently when I feel she is making a dangerous or life-changing mistake. But this young woman of mine makes some pretty great decisions without my input. She does need me… she needs me to listen when she wants to talk, she needs me to bounce ideas off of, and she needs me to provide advice when asked. She knows I’m the life boat that will keep her from veering too far off course, but at this point I have to let her drive.
Sarah ended her conversation with Amber by saying, “…I’m in awe of you. And I want you to just go out there and fly. You can fly.” The happy ending was that Meghan DID do the open mic, and did it beautifully.

I’ve said it before, but watching my little girl fly is one of the best parts of being her mom.