A short while ago May was a toddler busily discovering the world around her, a world filled with rocks in the driveway, tulips blooming, leaf-pile jumping, shell collecting, block building, watching Yo Gabba Gabba, and the myriad of activities that lead young children along the path of learning. A short while ago May believed in: the Easter Monkey (she didn’t like the bunny), Santa Claus, the tooth fairy (teeth left outside her bedroom door), and the magic spray that would eliminate any unwanted specters from her bedroom at bed time. Today, the big bows in her hair have been replaced by elastics around ponytails and sleeper pajamas by pajama pants with T-shirts. May has entered the beginning of the tumultuous time known as the teenage years.
As young children, under the protective eyes of our parents, we learn about the world around us. We develop the core values that will carry us through life. As we go through adolescence, we begin to discover the world within us. It is a time when the lessons learned during our early developmental years are put to the test; a time when the influence of friends and the need for acceptance can often govern our actions.
I can still recall my teenage years. As a shy, insecure child, I would often observe the actions of girls in the “popular crowd” and try to emulate their behavior. I’d experiment with make-up (always a monumental mess), laugh at jokes I didn’t understand, join in on gossip, and pretend to be “cool.” However, many of my actions were foreign to my nature, leaving me in a state of constant unease. It wasn’t until I entered my twenties that I began to gain the confidence necessary to carry me through challenging social situations. I often wonder when the change came about. I wonder if I really am a different person from that shy insecure child of yore or if I just learned to play the game. One thing I know for certain is that I am glad those years are behind me.
I vividly remember the angst I felt as my daughters went through those years: when to let go and when to say “no.” Interestingly enough, the letting go was built upon the foundation of saying “no.” I believed then, as I do now, that regardless of the tears, slammed doors, and angry looks, children need to hear the word “no” to develop into caring, respectful adults, especially if it goes against the values and beliefs of their parents. It can often be one of the most difficult words to say to a teenager.
As May goes through the highs and lows of being a teenager, I am sure her parents will experience those highs and lows along with her; that’s called being good parents. As May’s grandmother, I happily look forward to witnessing each moment from afar.