Parents of teenagers, what is it about the age (hormones, a glimpse of the ‘real’ world) that so often poisons the resiliency and willingness to just try of their younger selves?
For most, this is just a temporary fog, but here is a life lesson, or life approach, that I’d like to inject directly into my kids brains as an antidote to overly negative thinking: How can I make this work?
It’s not a life hack (hate those) but a mindset. Don’t be the type of person that approaches a situation and think, “What are all the ways this might go wrong?
This is not to say I want the girls to be naive or overly optimistic. Just the opposite. I want them to be realistic and believe that they’ll find a way through no matter what and not to depend on things outside their control.
Both types of mindsets need to deal with reality, but the first person will only have to solve problems that actually occur while the second person may never get started because they’ve scuttled themselves with potential (or even imaginary) problems before they even start.
There will always be reasons to not do something. It’s how you start anyway that makes a difference.
It was a long, rough week, both nationally and locally. Near and far brought news where answers or the right words were near impossible. Most of the time I felt frozen in anger, frustration, and sorrow where action and change were far out of reach.
What do you possible say to your children other than the truth and provide as much love and support as you can?
Epictetus said, as you tuck your children in whisper to yourself ‘They may be gone in the morning.’
That feels like a brutal slap in the face but as we’re confronted with almost each day, life is fleeting and the world is cruel. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. So it’s not a slap but a daily and realistic reminder not to waste a single second of our time. It is one small thread of clarity that can come from tragedy: be present, be loving, be forgiving.
It can all go away in a blink. There’s nothing we can do other than be what they need right now. Right this second.
At the risk of going thematically off the rails again, I’d like to revisit effort again. This is a frequent topic in our house because of the tug of war between music, improvement, and daily practice. And maybe because of 80s movies. Rocky IV, Karate Kid (“You’re the best… AROOOUNND!”), Teen Wolf, Bloodsport, or Dirty Dancing include the training montage showing the blood, sweat, and beards required to get good at something. Those aren’t exactly accurate despite the awesome soundtracks and hair. They might present a slightly skewed view of the cost of improvement.
Now here’s the part I get stuck on. I think a key part of making the mental switch, and potentially enjoying or understanding better, the link between practice and effort is admitting that you suck and want to get better. My girls have incredible confidence. It’s something I admire about both of them. They put themselves out there in ways I never could. I don’t want to blunt that or discourage that. But they also lack almost any critical self-awareness.
The fact that they aren’t great (yet) is totally fine. But there is not a magic training montage on the horizon to cultivate improvement. There is just a loop of a little bit of practice, get a little bit better. Repeat for as long as it takes. There is joy to be found in sucking a little less each day. It just takes a willingness to embrace being bad first.
On to Saturday…
A few weeks ago both girls did their piano guild auditions. In another few weeks, they both have their dance recitals. Both things require practice and commitment. Both girls did fine at their auditions. And I’m sure they will do fine at their recital. But I had the nagging sense, in my mind, that they could have done better. They could have practiced more, worked on those rough spots more. It bothered me that they couldn’t or didn’t see this. They were happy with their performances and shrugged off any mistakes.
Why was I getting upset? Why did I care more than they did?
Which is ridiculous and mostly just me projecting my baggage onto them. I’m sure they will learn to care more as they mature but they are also kids and, I often forget, feel and interpret things differently than me. And my adult way isn’t necessarily right or more correct. A kid’s innocence shouldn’t be corrupted too early.
Maybe I should take that lesson and shrug more things off, too.
The kids had winter break this week. We stayed put and I hit a pandemic wall. Not the first in the past year. Turns out an introvert who doesn’t mind going days without speaking to other humans has limits. I tried to fight it. Being tired is easy. Being a cynic is easy. Caring is much harder. Hoping is harder.
Who knows how this past year will effect the kids long term? Maybe they shrug it off. Maybe it’s a weird touchstone moment they share at parties. I do know it’s not fair to let my experiences deprive them of any hope they need to be happy. So I put on my Dad pants, vacuumed up my pity, stayed off the internet, and tried to stay positive.
Parenting is not easy. It takes a certain courage. The courage to wake up in the morning and keep up the good cheer even if you’re not feeling it. The courage to believe that making a better world is possible and worth it.
Parenting is hard. But it’s worth it.
I’m going to get this out of the way right off the bat. We are an Anna’s Taqueria Family and have been for more than 20 years. But we also really like Mexican food in just about all forms. Put it in a tortilla and I’ll likely eat it. As I’ve said before, lack of really good pizza and burritos in the suburbs where we live is the biggest food fail. I can make a very good pizza but haven’t really conquered recreating great Mexican street food at home. We are always on the lookout for a new burrito or taco place that is closer to home. Jamaica Plain isn’t all that much closer than some of the Anna’s locations but Chilacates was worth a try.
Cecilia lost her last baby tooth this week. One more childhood ritual done. One step closer to manic teenager. Maybe because it’s rather innocuous, not scheduled, and not typically celebrated with a Hallmark card, it caught us all a little off-guard. Or maybe it was just the end of a long Tuesday and the wine wasn’t open yet. Either way, it was a bit emotional.
Cecilia wrote a long and sweet good-bye letter. Fidget Windwand (the nom de plume of our tooth fairy) wrote a poetic response. We’re at the awkward stage where we are not totally sure is she is playing us, hanging on (for the cash), or genuinely believes.
I’m sure we’ll have plenty of years in the near future where nothing will be cool and astonishing and being a child is for babies. I’m happy to wait on that. For this last night, we were all believers.