It still hasn’t quite sunken in yet, but our oldest daughter started high school this past week. I sound like every other parent on the planet when I say that it just seems like yesterday we were dropping her off for her first day of Kindergarten, but it’s true. I’ve had a lot of mixed emotions this past week about this huge step in her life. I haven’t cried or anything like that because 1) Crying resolves nothing and 2) Crying ruins my makeup and who needs that? Allison starting high school has made me a little reminiscent of my high school days and knowing that she could very well face the same challenges I faced back then has got me more than a little apprehensive.
It’s no secret I had Allison when I was a junior in high school. I’m not the least bit ashamed of having been a teenage mother. I was headed down the wrong path very quickly, and I believe God allowed me to become a mom so young to get me back on the straight and narrow; to walk the line, if you will. I think God knew He had to allow something so drastic to happen to me to bring me back into His fold. Not that I ever left His fold, but if I’d continued the way I was, an “unfolding” was inevitable. I’ve always tried to be open and honest with Allison about that time in my life. I’ve tried to tell her how having her was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that I want something different for her. How do I explain that double standard? What’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander?! Do as I say, not as I do?! There is such a fine line between expressing to this sweet, wonderful girl that she was the greatest blessing in my life, and convincing her that mine is not the same path she should take. How do I convince her to walk the line?
I see so many similarities between Allison and me; our sense of humor, our love of reading and all things nerdy, how we can easily make conversation with strangers and the list goes on. I believe it’s our differences that are more important though. Our differences help put my mind at ease. She is very different than I was as a teenager. She is not afraid to stand up to people. I, on the other hand, wanted to crawl in a hole at the very inkling of conflict. She doesn’t feel the need to please people who aren’t kind to her. She lives by “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If she’s treated badly by someone, she moves on. She will go out of her way to help someone, but she does not try to win people over by doing favors for them. She’s very “this is me, take it or leave it” and I love that. For years, I tortured myself with thoughts of people who didn’t like me for whatever reason. I would lie awake at night worrying myself sick over anything that I may have said that was misconstrued. Things like this don’t bother Allison. She means what she says, yet she says it very carefully. I am amazed sometimes at her grace and decorum. The most important difference I believe is that her worth, her identity, her happiness, her sense of security, is not dependant on the opposite sex. I.Am.So.Thankful.For.That. I’m not saying she isn’t interested in boys, she is, but she doesn’t feel left out or empty without a boyfriend. Her mother did, because her mother had such low self-esteem she equated having a boyfriend with being worth something. She misunderstood affection for love and before she knew it, Allison’s mother was 17 years old with a little baby…and no boyfriend in sight. It took motherhood at a young age to make her mother realize that her happiness and self-worth were something she had control of, and not something that anyone else should dictate for her. I don’t discourage Allison from having a boyfriend, but I don’t encourage it either. She and I talk very openly about those things and those things are things she’s not quite ready for, by her own admission. We talk about her plans for the future. They include college, mission work in Uganda, and eventually marriage. She jokes that I’ll be really old when I’m a grandmother because she doesn’t plan on getting married and having children for a long time. And I am okay with that. I tell her I want her to live her young life to the fullest, to follow her passion and don’t let anything stand in her way. Grasp those opportunities that are presented to you and run with them. I tell her she will make mistakes, but the trick is to learn from them and avoid making the same ones over and over again. Most importantly, I tell her that her identity should be found in God, a lesson I don’t want her to learn after hitting rock bottom. Knowing that her identity is in God will hopefully keep her far away from the murky depths of rock bottom.
I don’t know if anything I say to her will keep her from treading in my teenage footsteps. I will never say, “Oh, it won’t ever happen to Allison. She’s a good, responsible girl. She’d never do something like that!” Pride comes before a fall and saying that will all but guarantee I will be a grandmother before I’m 35 years old. The reality is that it can happen. It can happen to the best of girls. All I can do is take it one day at a time. Keep talking to her, but more importantly, keep listening to her and just hope she “walks the line”. If all else fails, we’ll just keep her locked in her room until she’s 30. That sounds like a plan.