This time of year is so emotional, isn't it? The end of one school year and the promise of new beginnings. Graduations and weddings...it doesn't take much to melt a mom into a puddle.
As I watch Abby anxiously await all that Jr. High promises her, I am so thrilled to have Ethan and Libby each content to trail two years behind her. They give me a chance to relive all of the experiences that flew by so quickly with our oldest child.
As I talk to the precious teen girls in my life who are spreading their wings and testing their boundaries, I hear a common pet peeve that they all claim leaves them feeling wounded.
'I hate when my mom asks me why I can't be the sweet little girl I used to be...'
When we ask our daughters 'what happened to my sweet little girl?' they are hearing 'I don't like who you are becoming...' Adults have the perspective of the passage of time - we can pull images from our memory pendeflex that can elicit tears of joy or pain in an instant. Teens don't have that vast perspective - they live in the present. Many times they can't see beyond today which is why friend drama erupts so frequently and their moods morph on a dime. When we ask open ended questions that paint their past appearance/behavior/interests as masterpieces and downplay their current status, they feel rejected.
Without a doubt, in the right setting, they enjoy a trip down memory lane discussing their toddler days or grade school achievements, but be careful not to frame those days as better than today.
Have you ever had a girlfriend compliment you on a weight loss? It's a great feeling...until you start pondering it. Did they think I was fat before? How big was I...did everyone think I was huge? We would never dream of asking a friend, "Why don't you put that 20lbs you just lost back on?" It would be immediately offensive and it could insinuate that you thought all of their weight loss effort was a waste of time. Perhaps you would feel better about yourself if your friend put their weight back on?
When wistfully we ask teens why they can't be who they used to be, they are offended. The process they are going through to figure out who they are is painful, confusing and scary. For our intuitive daughters (& sons!) our misty eyed question about their past may bring up feelings of fear of your disapproval of who they have become. Are we wondering about who they used to be because it was easier for us to parent them then than it is now? Don't allow your insecurity about your ability to parent them now become their issue.
If you feel the desire to ruffle your tween/teens hair and ask where your little kiddo has gone, resist and consider how it would feel if someone asked you where the heavier, chubbier version of you has gone? Not a good feeling - compliment their progress and save the walk down memory lane for the wedding toasts, don't drag it out every time your teen makes a choice you disagree with.
And remember...keep the Kleenex handy...you'll need them for more than seasonal allergies in the weeks ahead.