I often dream about what my little daughters and son will be like when they hit the "terrible t's".
Virginia is four going on sixteen. She looks (depending on what she wears and how her hair is done), talks (any words that make her feel grown up are freely expressed) and acts (little miss attitude) like a teenager. Today she was putting on lip gloss and asking how it looked each time she applied a new coat.
She also found a new little mole on her arm and was ecstatic.
"Does this mean I'm almost a teenager?!"
At my house growing up, adolescence was not something to look forward to. And unfortunately for me, it was ushered in by a difficult move, living in a trailer for several months with five younger siblings and one older while helping my Mother to build a fourty-two square foot home during every waking moment(and every not so waking moment). Not to mention the horror of meeting my monthly friend ~ which included, but was not limited to: excruciating pain, occasional vomiting, and anemia (I wondered how on earth anyone could expect me to go to school or do anything else whilst dealing with this conundrum to womanhood).
Soon thereafter,two more soon-to-be teenagers were brought into the mix -*my two step-sisters who were in age six months in between three of us (sort of like having two sets of twins in a row at least school wise).
It was a tough time for everyone. Unfortunately, the negative connotation thrust upon us teens by my well intentioned parents didn't seem to delay the inevitable - for the five years following my introduction into puberty, five more teenagers would emerge under one roof.
At one point in time, our fourty-two foot squared home housed seven teenagers, five of whom were girls. Perhaps it was fate. Maybe a higher power wanted my wonderful parents to experience a large variety at one time in hopes of redirecting their negative perception of these quizzically effervescent human beings. Surely, out of such a variety, there were bound to be some who might shed positive light on the dreaded teenage years. But in the end, I'm afraid this explosion of drama, stench and appetite may have done little to sway their opinion.
Given my history, I'd like to change things up a bit for my own family and if I must, express my opinion on raising children.
Obedience (which seemed to be the sole focus in the home where I was raised) is important, no doubt and holds a vital place in rearing children. But I believe there comes a time when it takes more of a backseat to other life virtues such as faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works and integrity, to name a few. Bounds are set from a young age, and when they've been taught, we must allow for our children to then spread their wings, learn from mistakes, experience good and bad consequences on their own, and in essence, discover who they are as individuals.
It took me many years of being married to realize that I was not nearly the person my parents thought I was. I was more what they had created (their idealized "perfect teenager"--my father's own words), and had no sense of me whatsoever. Literally, when I'd try to imagine who I was, I felt completely blind and it frustrated me beyond words. In my mind's eye, I was non-existent. My question time and time again was "Who am I?"...
Upon my discovery of self-betrayal (I had denied myself so much for the benefit of others, that I had lost my vision or understanding of who I was), I began to actively search for answers to that question. Through much self-evaluation, prayer, studying and waiting patiently...where I once was blind, I began to see (only bits and pieces at first).
I'm happy to announce that now, (seven years out of my parent's house) when I get up in front of people to give a speech, or just to express an opinion, my heart hardly beats at all. I can express myself with confidence and reassurance - understanding that what I have to offer need not be approved by anyone, but is of intrinsic value (assuming my readers know that I am not one to speak unless I've put much effort into studying, pondering, and putting into practice any given subject). No more panic attacks, no more darting eyes to see if anyone is going to mock or even care, no more desire to solely please those around me. I am me, take it or leave it. Your opinion, action or inaction does nothing to change that what I have to offer is valuable.
I'm so grateful that my husband was patient enough with me to recognize my need for lots of encouragement and tolerance. I feel like I'm fully bloomed now.
I finally understand who I am. I am a silly and fun person, a rebel of societal rules and political correctness. I am a loving and tolerant individual who delights in getting to know and understand how those around me tick. I am open minded, open hearted, and a friend to all who would have me.
I hope my children continue to look forward to being teenagers, and I hope it proves to be a joyful and wonderful experience for them. And I want for them to be able to not be afraid to discuss anything and everything with their parents (hopefully both parties can keep our eyes, ears and hearts wide open as we walk this unpredictable journey called life).
I'll admit I'm certainly not ready for teenagers just yet. But it's alright for a little girl - as well as her mother to hope and dream, right?
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