Learning to love and listen

It’s the middle of February and I can’t say I’m too confident about how this year is going.

It feels like 2017 is still finding ways to seep into my new year, new life routine. With the various weather changes and sporadic illnesses going around, I’ve been indoors lately. It’s not because I’m lazy or antisocial or a new series on Netflix got my attention. (Ok, maybe a couple.)

I can always use motivation. It seems like a good time to figure out what this year has in store for me. A time to take inventory on what life looks like, because once the sun comes out I will be lazy about my well being. I eat salads now so I can prepare for smore’s later. If I stick to a workout routine, I can feel confident by summer time only to watch it end with hotdog shame. Sadly enough, bouncing back from the holidays was harder than I expected, so I’ve got some work cut out for me. These are the things I can control. I worry about the things that aren’t in my control. Bad drivers. Someone sneezing on the potluck items. Mail that gets lost in shipment. Then the thought popped in my head that my daughter will be a teenager this year.

I let that sink in. I still feel like a thirteen year old girl at times, but now I’ll be raising one. Never in my childhood or college days did I ever think that some day when I grow up I’ll be raising a teenage daughter. I was a teenage daughter once and trust me when I say, it was no picnic. Besides spiders, heights, or closed in spaces, teenage daughters are somewhere on that list.

What species does mine belong to? I don’t like to label people. Just kidding, I love to label people. It helps organize my thoughts and judgments, but to be fair I like everyone so it’s not as harsh as it sounds. My daughter is like her father. Accomplishes such great work, but sometimes can be too hard on themselves. I barely do anything and it feels like too much. They are gentle introverts and handle social situations with ease. I bust in guns blazing to let everyone know I’ve arrived. They like adventure, but with a measured amount of spontaneity. I’m equally as boring on that one. They are calculated, but whimsy about it. They are the quiet mad scientists of the family. My son and I are loud. We bring the party, then turn it up. I think knowing where you’re different and what you have in common is a good place to start when getting to know your kid.

I don’t mind being a friend to my kids. I guess it depends on your definition. I feel like being a friend is just getting to know someone and having an enjoyable time. I’m not just their friend, I’m also their mom. Finding the balance between the two can be difficult as they grow up. Getting to know anyone is great until you hit a tough situation. Then you find out what that relationship is made of. When I take the time to get to know my daughter those moments aren’t as tricky.

I try not to overreact or laugh nervously when she says she wants to tell me something important. I immediately scold my emotions until they submit from Lady Gaga to Barbara Walters so I can just focus and listen to her. Hopefully that helps her learn to trust me more and will help her open up. In a world that works at furious speeds, so do relationships. Listening to her is putting in the long term work of forging that bond before something (or someone) else has her attention. I understand I am just one point of view to her. However, it’s safe to say most of us care a little bit about what our mom thinks.

Here’s the thing: I’m not scared about raising a teenager, because she is more than that label to me. She is my daughter. It won’t hurt to have a plan or coping mechanisms in line once the teen years approach. That isn’t my focus though. I need to remember what being thirteen was like so I can show empathy (or sympathy). I can’t risk us getting into an argument, because what if I need her to reach something for me. Balance is key, but loving someone is better. Loving my kid means guiding them, supporting them, and encouraging them to flourish. Oh if it were only that easy. I’ll float on my cloud of good intentions until the rains of teenage emotional awareness come beating down on me. Until then I will continue to love and listen.

Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at columnkasi@gmail.com.

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