Sweet Sixteen!

Our daughter is a high school sophomore, and she and lots of her friends are turning 16. No one is more excited than she is. In fact, if I asked her right now how long till her birthday, she could likely tell me how many days and how many hours. More importantly, if I asked her how many days till she can test for her drivers license (a few days after her birthday), she might know down to the minute.

Lots of friends have told me stories about watching their kids drive away on their own for the first time. For some, it’s scary and nerve-wracking. Others say it’s exciting, knowing their children are gaining more independence. One friend has told me how upset she was when her son drove to school by himself for the first time, because it hadn’t occurred to her that the last time she drove him was the last time.

While we are excited for our daughter, there is a little apprehension. She’s 16, and her brain still works like a 16-yr-old. Driving is a big responsibility. We have done everything we can to prepare her for this moment. While North Carolina requires young drivers to log 60 driving hours while they have their learner’s permits, we have required her to log 120 hours. It gives me a little peace of mind to know she has logged double the required number of hours. We have reviewed different situations in driving:

  • Always STOP before turning right on red when clear.
  • When the light turns green, look to make sure cars aren’t coming before driving into the intersection.
  • Plan your route before you leave home.
  • Avoid difficult left turns.
  • At a certain shopping center in Charlotte, never use a particular entrance/exit.
  • When coming around a bus in said shopping center, be aware that cars might not see you and will turn in front of you.
  • Slower traffic keep right.
  • When brake lights come on in front of you, immediately put your foot on the brake…and watch for brake lights two or three cars in front of you.
  • Don’t follow closely.
  • Avoid high traffic areas when possible…and high traffic times too.
  • Don’t play loud music; you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.
  • Pay extra close attention in roundabouts. You might know what you’re doing, but it’s difficult for lots of people.
  • If you’re not sure you can fit into a parking space easily, just drive farther out in the parking lot. You’re healthy. You can walk.
  • No cell phone usage or other distracted driving.
  • Be smart/use good judgment.
  • Pay attention to road signs!

There are so many things to know/learn when driving. I remember when she was younger, she once asked me if driving is difficult. I explained to her that no, the act of driving is not difficult; it’s the other drivers/cars on the road that make it difficult. Anyone who can drive will know that is true. You never know when someone will follow you too closely or stop unexpectedly in front of you. You never know when a car will turn in front of you or change lanes on top of you. And we all make mistakes while drivingwe just have to hope we don’t make big mistakes. And if you’re wondering…yes, I’ve taught her all about the courtesy wave…when someone lets you into traffic…when you make a mistake that affects another car…courtesy wave.

So here we go…in a few days, if she passes the test, she will be driving by herself. Several of her friends have failed the driving test the first go-round, so we aren’t counting on it being a sure thing. My husband will take her to the DMV, and they will call me afterward. He navigates government offices better than I do. He also navigates cell phone stores better, but I’ll save that for another day.

The bad news is that I won’t have that car time to chat with her. Now, when I bring her home from school or sports practice, that drive time is a little decompression time. We catch up. She likely won’t be a passenger in my car very often for the rest of her life.

The good news? I won’t have to drop everything to pick her up somewhere. She can drive herself to and from school and sports practices. She is excited. She is gaining some independence, and I can have a cocktail on the patio in the afternoon!

Don’t we all remember when we got our driver’s licenses? Don’t we all remember how it felt like forever till we had them? It’s a milestone. It’s a big deal. It’s what makes the sixteenth birthday a special one. And I’m excited for her to spread her wings!

Now, she just has to pass the test.

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Be Vulnerable: Is Friendship Worth It?

Life’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. It’s something we should know as adults, but we never learn.

Friendships aren’t always easy, either. Yes, there are times friendships are easy, but there are times they are difficult…hanging by a thread. Because I have a teenage daughter, I spend a lot of time discussing friendships, forgiveness, trust, and communication. But frankly, I’m still learning myself, so I don’t always give sound advice. We all make mistakes in friendships, even as adults, and we all have friends who make mistakes, even as adults.

We’ve all had times in relationships that we realized we needed to “fish or cut bait,” haven’t we? Aren’t there times you step back when a situation arises and think, “Maybe I don’t need to continue this friendship.” When I’ve felt that way, I try to take a deep breath and think logically…evaluate the situation without emotion.

But that’s easier said than done, because friendships are emotional connections. Just like marriage, friendship requires trust.. And just like marriages, friendships can fall apart. Unfortunately, just like marriages, going into them, we don’t know which ones will last and which ones won’t. A friend posted this on Instagram earlier this week:

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How true are those words of C.S. Lewis? We can’t be hurt emotionally by people to whom we don’t have an emotional connection. If you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, making them angry, do you worry about it for days to come? Likely not. But if you accidentally offend a longtime friend, do you worry about it for days to come? Probably. At least, you should, if you care about the person.

Likewise, if someone who is not your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Unless it’s going to affect something, probably not. If your friend tells you a lie, do you care? Yes. You do. And it’s all because you’ve made yourself vulnerable to that person by letting him/her into your life…trusting them. And that’s when you have to decide what to do. Do you confront them about it? Do you chalk it up to a mistake and let it go? Do you silently harbor ill feelings? Do you walk away from the friendship? It’s difficult. Because you’ve made yourself vulnerable, that hurt cuts a little deeper.

But, as C.S. Lewis says, if you want to keep your heart “intact,” you have to lock it up, don’t risk it by loving anyone. To have love of any kind is to have occasional pain, but the real friendships last…after forgiveness is sought. At the same time, we have to give those very friends the benefit of the doubt until we have reason to believe otherwise. Maybe your friend didn’t hurt you intentionally. Injury without malice, in friendships, should be forgiven. Injury with malice, in friendships, should be forgiven, as well…to free yourself from the burden of anger. I’ve written about forgiveness before. You can read it here.

I cannot imagine my own life without friendships. Sure, there have been friendships that have fallen by the wayside. It’s the way life is. Some of them fall away accidentally…you don’t know the last time you talked, and you didn’t realize at the time it would be the last time you would talk. Sometimes, there’s an argument or disagreement that ends a friendship. Other friendships, we choose to end, for one reason or another. Maybe you feel you’ve been taken for granted. Maybe the other person feels manipulated. Maybe you disagree all the time, and it has become tiresome. It happens, and when it has happened to me, I’ve chosen to believe I’ve learned from each instance.

But here’s one thing: if your heart gets broken, get up, and try again. Making yourself vulnerable is difficult and scary, but if you don’t, you won’t know what it’s like to have real friends. And remember, everyone isn’t going to like you. It’s a fact. And once you are OK with that, life gets a lot easier.

Is friendship worth the risk of heartache? You bet. For every disappointment, heartache, and sorrowful moment involved in friendship, there will be countless more good times.

To love is to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable.

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Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com

My Daughter Is Starting High School

As the mom of a rising 9th grade girl, I have lots of things swirling through my head, just like most moms of children who will be entering high school in the next few weeks.

On one hand, I feel a sense of relief. We survived middle school. As it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, but maybe it’s like pregnancy and childbirth…we forget the bad and remember the good. Having a daughter in middle school was stressful at times, but it was a lot of fun too. It was all about survival. They played sports. They had social lives…real social lives they planned themselves. They had drama but solved it themselves. We survived. My daughter even told me recently she loved middle school.

On the other hand, there’s excitement. My daughter is starting high school. I feel like she’s ready. I hope she’s ready. I pray she’s ready.

And while I’m nervous and excited and worried at the same time, I know high school is her job, not mine. My job is to give her the tools to make her successful at this job, but ultimately, it’s her job.

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So, I’m arming her with some tools. The first tool she has is experience. She earned experience on her own. You can’t hand your child experience, and there’s only so much they can learn from their parents’ experiences. Besides, they have to go to school, so they all get their own experience. Simply by making it this far, she has experience from which she can build. Hopefully, she has learned and will continue to learn what works for her and what doesn’t. Of course, I will share my own experiences with her, and maybe she will hear some of it.

Another tool: encouragement. She shares with me what her goals are, and I encourage her to do everything she needs to do to accomplish those goals. Let’s say she wants to try out for a sports team. I provide encouragement when she needs it. I tell her I love watching her play, even after a terrible game. When the coach is not happy with her play, I continue telling her I love watching her play. I encourage her to work hard and play hard. I encourage her to be the best she can be. The same can be applied to schoolwork. History test coming up? It’s her job to study and be prepared. I’m not a mom who helps with homework. I usually don’t know what her homework is…and that’s how I like it. But if she comes to me and tells me she is studying hard for a history test, I offer encouragement. I tell her I know she can do it, because I do know it. I remind her hard work is her friend. She is more likely to make the grade she wants if she studies efficiently and works hard. I encourage her to set aside the time to get the work done and get it done well.

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Unconditional love is another tool. It’s an important tool, in my opinion, as the parent of a teenager in high school. We hear it all the time: teenagers’ frontal lobes are not fully developed. It’s true. They can’t always reason through things, and sometimes problems appear larger than they are. They need us. They don’t need us to make problems go away. They need us to love them through their problems. My daughter needs to know I love her “no matter what.” That doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. It means she knows I love her even when I’m angry. Sometimes, when we’re riding in the car or sitting at the dinner table, I will say to her, “I love you all the time. No matter what, I love you. If you have a problem, come to me first. Things aren’t always as bad as they seem.” That’s what I want to give my daughter: unconditional love.

Another tool? A bit of wisdom: Get to know your teachers. I tell her the story of my freshman year in college. I had done well my first semester of Calculus, but about two weeks into the second semester, I was struggling a bit. I made an appointment to meet with my teacher, and we set up regular times to meet, so he could tutor me through his class. I had a low A going into the final, but then I bombed it. I received a B in the class, even after bombing the final, and I know it was because of my effort. After seeing my final exam score posted, I stuck my head in his office, and he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I told him I had seen that, and I was sorry to disappoint. When I asked him about my grade, he replied, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” You do good in long journey has been one of my favorite quotes since then. My daughter has heard that story many times. From that, I hope she learns to know when she needs help in a class and “nip it in the bud” by meeting with teachers for extra help.

What more can we provide?  Freedom…freedom to make their own decisions…bad or good. Good decisions can propel them forward, and bad ones can help them learn how to make better decisions. We can provide them with independence. We can provide them with the opportunity for lots of rest. We can provide them with the opportunity to enjoy their social lives. And we can provide them with plenty of study time and a good place to study. We can provide them with healthy meals and with a home in which they can be themselves. But we have to give them the freedom to make their own decisions about all those things.

Is it going to be easy? Heck no! It’s going to be difficult, but together, we will get through it, and we will both enjoy it from different places.

Let’s do this high school thing!

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