The day had been a long one, and I was very tired. My mother and I had driven to my sister’s to help after the cesarean birth of her first child. The roads were bad, my father’s car didn’t handle well in the snow, and my nerves were shot by the time we arrived. And then I saw my brand new niece Lydia, and my heart melted. All the snow in the world couldn’t have kept me from that first, warm moment of holding her. I took her from her father’s arms and gazed into her sleepy face and was transfixed. My own kids were teenagers, and, to be truthful, things weren’t all that calm in our home. I’d packed a few books and my Bible, and was glad for this happy excuse to get away.
Later that evening, when I was finally alone, alone with God, and it all was quiet and cozy, I had time to think. There was something weighing on my mind, an ache for my teenage daughter. She and I were going through a rough patch, at odds almost daily, and I was frazzled. Angry. Snippy. I’m sure she never knew what kind of mom she was coming home to each day, and adjusted her schedule accordingly. Her cunning avoidance techniques bordered on deception.
Two weeks before my niece was born, my daughter didn’t come home one night at all. I spent a frantic night scouring the countryside trying to find her. It was winter and the roads were awful, but in my craziness, I headed off into the snow with no thought of where I was going, driving for hours and getting madder by the minute. I finally found her parked at an all-night gas station, acting as if that were the most logical place for a sixteen-year-old girl to be at two in the morning.
Sitting in my sister’s house alone, I thought about everything my daughter and I had been through, and my head hurt. I never had a sixteen-year-old before. I thought mine was unusual. And difficult. I didn’t recall being defiant at her age.
Of course my mom had something wise to say in that regard. I, too, had challenged and bent the rules, and been a worry to my parents. I, too, thought I knew better than they did and was unappreciative of their concern for my well-being. And I thought I was normal. Life was coming full-circle, and I had to catch up and accept the gift of parenting a child who was trying to find her own place in the world. It would take time for her to gain wisdom to balance the freedoms she wanted with the responsibility that went along with them. Teenhood was messy because life is messy. My attempt to control everything by demanding neat and orderly, instant good attitude and obedience was bound to meet up with resistance. I wanted cooperation. But what did my daughter want?
I thought she just wanted to make me mad. Or perhaps she was testing me to see if she would still be loved even when acting unlovely. Would she be cherished when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, when she didn’t even look me in the eye? Maybe she was arguing to learn her own mind, to be heard. Was I even listening? Maybe this was normal, maybe we both needed a rest from each other; from warfare and hurt feelings. My heart was torn. The motherly part of me wanted to understand her side of things, the disciplinarian part wanted ultimatums and control. I needed time to think. And pray.
The respite provided all that and more. I started missing my daughter and her happy go-lucky-ways, her bright smile and funny sense of humor. I thought of her as a whole person, her needs and wants and fears, and prayed for a whole and holy way to handle the mothering of this unique young woman who had a role to play in this world. I began to dream for her, and still do to this day. Perhaps the times when we feel the least successful as a parent are the ones that are making the biggest change in our children’s lives.
That was twenty years ago, and that season of raising a teenager who admittedly would go on to challenge more rules and become more independent. And that teenager would grow up to leave home and begin a family and eventually become the mother of a teenager herself. That’s the full circle of what we do as parents; we love and train and pray and hope and leave the results in the hands of God. Sometimes we get a teen granddaughter in the deal. One who is independent and kindhearted and sensitive just like her mom and grandmom, and who is able by that grace of generational space to help smooth over the little riffs that still sometime come between my daughter and me.
Doreen Frick lives in Nebraska. She began the journey of writing back in the day when her dad, Salem Kirban, a prophecy writer who went to Heaven in 2010, let her use his typewriter. Doreen has been married 42 years, and has four grown children all on the east coast.