Parenting a Teenager: 101

PARENTING A TEENAGER; 101

Today is the last day of Chanukah. Historically, it is called the festival of lights for many reasons. My light this year was the fact that some of my children were able to come home for a visit from school. My daughter Tilly is 15 and in the 10th grade. Because of our life-style choices, coupled with where we live, we have to send our kids away for high school, so Tilly is spending much of the year in Florida. For all our children, going away at a young age has been a challenge in of itself, and for me, their mother, equally so.

Raising a teenager is difficult in the best circumstances and I have been mindful of keeping our lines of communication open. I have made it clear that, if she is not happy in her present school, we will find another one. I am also mindful of the fact that she is a young teenager finding her independence and inner strength.

Tilly’s and my relationship has been a bit rocky this past year. I have been the safe person on whom she can vent her emotions. There have been times that if I blink wrong she takes it the wrong way.  A word here or there is often misunderstood, though Tilly and I have been lucky in the fact that there are others, her father and her brothers and sisters, who can shed light on any misunderstandings that come up. Of course, I am aware that, as her parent, I should not take any of it personally.

This morning, my husband brought home a case of bananas for me to dehydrate.  If you have never had a dried banana, I highly recommend it. It’s a rare treat, sweet and chewy all in one bite.  My dehydrator was dirty from the last batch of fruit I dried, so I had to take the time to clean it before using it again. My husband says, “If you are doing it right, it does not have to be forced,” so I took care to soak the trays first.  After a 30 minute soak, everything gently came off easily. It took longer than if I had forced it, but the end result was better.

Tilly’s Chanukah break was very short. She could have stayed in Florida where it is 80 degrees, but she said she really wanted to come home (even to the cold). That statement told me a lot. I heard what was not being said; I heard she needed her parents and, if I may indulge a bit, her mother. She arrived Thursday afternoon and left Monday morning, a short but sweet time. Her visit was amazing. We played cards together; we cooked together. She went to the mall with her brothers, skating with her sisters.  Monday morning, I jokingly said, “Maybe you and I should have gotten into a few arguments, because I’m so sad to see you leave now.” She laughed, I laughed too and I asked her “Are you okay with going back?” She answered with a definite yes. She admits that dorm life can be challenging but she’s happy there. As her mother, that was a great thing to hear.

In many way, parenting is a lot like fishing.  When you have a fish on the line and the line is too tight, you can loose it, too loose, you can damage it. In August, I wrote an article about my daughter Tzofia called Courage.  Like Tzofia, Tilly knows that we are there for her 24/7. Having a lifeline available allows children to step out of their comfort zones and venture forth into the unknown. Tilly called me last night about a problem she was having with one of her friends. I told her that one of you has to be the adult and break the ice, and if not her, who? She called me back later and told me I was right. STOP RIGHT THERE! I…was…right. What an amazing thing for a parent of a teenager to hear. I recalled my husband’s words, spoken about something very different but perfect for many situations, most particularly parenting a teen: “If you are doing it right, it does not have to be forced.”  Wow, I think we just had a breakthrough.

3 thoughts on “Parenting a Teenager: 101

  1. Thank you for making me step back and appreciate my teenage daughter. She makes me crazy so often that I forget how blessed I am to have her. I learn from you all the time, BatSheva.

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