I have come to the conclusion that there comes a point in our children’s lives, when you have to step back and trust and hope. Instinctively, I have known this for a while, but it is only now that I am allowing myself to openly admit it.
You see the thing is, shit will happen. Whether you are a parent who hovers or a parent who doesn’t have the time and/or the inclination to, shit will still go down.
Daughter 2 is 15. She’s the third 15 year old who I have parented. It’s taken me this long to acknowledge that sometimes their take on life is ok. Sometimes, when I judge their perspective on things, I am wrong to do so. Not always, but sometimes and probably a lot more than I ever thought.
Teenagers don’t use desks. Some do, of course, but many don’t. It is quite normal for you to come home and find your teenager wrapped up in their fluffiest of dressing gowns, in bed, duvet pulled up with a laptop positioned precariously on their knees…at 2pm on a Sunday. No, they are not still in bed from the previous night. Under their dressing gown they are fully clothed and have been for a while. This used to make me mad. “What are you doing in bed?” I’d holler. Then I noticed a sister was doing it and then a cousin. Now, it may well be that it’s genetic, but I suspect it’s a teenage ‘thing’. I don’t like it, because it seems slovenly. They do it because it makes them feel comfortable and cosy. Does it affect whether they get that required level 6 in GCSE Maths? Probably not. Perhaps I should step back and let it go.
You certainly have to pick your battles with the teens. You can’t be a one-man army, firing shots in all directions at every thing you don’t like or agree with. Those teens will be off like a shot – jumping into the nearest fluffy dressing gown and diving under the duvet for cover.
When Daughter 1 was revising for her GCSE’s, she announced that she was going to revise with a friend – on Face time. “No way!” I responded. “You will never get any work done!” She dismissed my worry and did it anyway. I decided to step back and observe, rather than to keep piling in. It’s not how I could ever have imagined revising, but she’s not me. She got fantastic grades. She attributes this partly to her working with her friend. I couldn’t argue.
Music was blaring out of her bedroom last night. I went to investigate and there was daughter 1 at her desk. The only reason being, that daughter 3 was on her bed, surrounded by maths books. “Why aren’t you working?” I shouted (over the noise of Will Joseph Cook). They both looked at me incredulously. “We are!” they chorused, as a Snap chat buzzed through. I was skeptical. I hovered. Do I turf daughter 3 out? Or, do I trust them? Do I step back and tell myself that their world isn’t my world, or do I take the hard parental line? I left them to it. Because you know what? They know what my expectations of them are. I’ve laid the ground rules over the years. I continue to be interested in their grades and their progress at school. I make sure that I still involve myself with how the personal statement is shaping up and how the math’s test went. But at the end of the day a large part of being a teenager is learning how to do things their way. Yes, shit will happen. It will happen at some point whether we are there or not and this is the step to independence, resilience and ultimately, success.
So, my new parent mantra is: don’t worry, hope. Stand back, take a breath and hope.