My posts usually relate to either Early Childhood pedagogy or administration, so today is a bit of a departure. Today, I reflect on the second stage of toddlerhood: adolescence. Specifically, I have been thinking a lot about the the six months of a teenager’s senior year in high school. Parents who have teens know that the time period between the start of summer break, as junior year ends, to the end of the the first semester in senior year, or winter break, is horrible.
No matter how “put together” one’s teenager is, this time period seems to create a resurgence of the power struggles so many parents assume were left behind once their delightful toddler began to communicate, obtained logical reasoning skills, and could be left at drop-off birthday parties without them. (I LOVED drop-off birthday parties, unless, of course, I was the hostess! But that is another post.)
Back to my (and other parents of high school seniors) misery. The pressure to complete college tours, applications, score well (enough) on the SAT and/or the ACT, write essays, ensure extracurriculars are sufficient, volunteerism is philanthropic (enough), decide on what one wants to be when he grows up, declare a major that fits future goals, match this with a school, and choose a primary, backup and reach school can send even the most well-adjusted child to a bed, a dog bed.
Yes, I wrote that correctly. When my daughter was a senior, she could not answer the innocent question I dared to ask at dinner, “Where do you want to apply?” The question caused her to get up from the dinner table, fling herself face-first into a dog bed and declare, “I don’t know! All of my friends have first and second choices. I have no idea what I want to do!”
A woman I know from our children’s elementary school recently posted this on Facebook: “I would like to fast forward past the part where my daughter is a psychotic mess over school and college applications. Please don't respond by telling me how much I'll miss her when she's at college. I know I'll miss her, but I won't miss *this*. And right now, I could seriously punch her in da troat.” (I think this is hysterical, T.T.)
When I have the gall to try to help my current senior, my son, create a timeline around his college process, I am met with varying degrees of hostility, which can range from avoiding the topic to loud requests to “leave me alone!”
This angst, while completely frustrating, is also completely understandable. There have been very few times in history when children were expected to tackle so many of life’s stressors all at one time:
Separation from primary caretakers
Potentially moving away from home
Expectations of success
Furthermore, I have a theory that there is a direct correlation between the level of obnoxiousness and the likelihood that parents will let them go. If our children were delightful, semi-adult companions, we would enfold them into our circle of friends. Instead, some evolutionary genius is built into our DNA, which provides teenagers with enough desire and demand for independence that we are ready to let them go—if only so they can find out life lessons from people to whom they will actually listen.
No one ever told me that my real goal as a mom was to prepare my children to leave. I found this out as I watched two of my three ducklings fly out of the nest. I am on the cusp of the third. Fortunately, his launching is proceeded with way too much loud quacking, and I am (almost) ready for him to spread his wings too.