Child A, my oldest child and the older of my twins, has been an interesting person for me to watch as she develops.
I was once so scared for her. She was so like I used to be: quiet, mousy, doing her work as hard as she could, never talking about herself or her feelings.
I didn’t know how to teach her some of the lessons that I’d learned the hard way and so wanted her to avoid in the school of hard knocks: standing up for what you want even when you’re the only one who thinks it’s good for you, working to resolve all the issues that make you uneasy, and walking away when you’ve done all you can and nothing changes.
At the end of her last year in middle school, she walked up to me after school and made a grand pronouncement that almost shocked me into wordlessness: I have signed up for Club XYZ. They are depending on me. You will have me at the practice downtown at 5 PM.
I was stunned. I knew all the stereotypes of Club XYZ. I knew good people who did it for the right reasons, too, but I was more worried about what would happen with the stereotypes. I knew that I hated the uniforms with a passion because I felt the immodesty screamed by the uniforms added to the stereotypes. I had always said no child of mine would ever join the club.
And yet… I felt a surge of relief. She just defied me. The child who was most like the pre-feminazi me before I got so verbal just got verbal and backed the words with action.
I called a one-hour time out for both of us during which time my still, small Voice and I argued. (Yes, He was laughing with delight at me and my chagrin and my discomfort and my frustration.) I really wanted to tear Child A to shreds, but I felt almost like I was being led in a different direction. At the end of that hour, I went to Child A. I told her I did not appreciate the rebellion, but I appreciated that Club XYZ was important enough for her to stand up to me. I would let her do it IF her grades stayed where they should or the teachers felt she was doing her best should the grades slipped.
In her first year of high school, we had so much fun with practices and performances and community events. Mid-year was tough, but she dug down and met the challenges with determined effort.
Her second year of high school wasn’t as great. Adult leadership in the club had changed; the fun was almost sucked out of it, but she kept a great attitude. She wrestled again mid-year; again, the determined effort allowed her to overcome the many academic hurdles she faced.
As part of this year, she got involved with Group AAA. This group is devoted to a professional category of jobs that are hands-on and down to earth. I started to see growth and maturation that I didn’t see in Club XYZ. She actually began to enjoy Group AAA so much that she went for and was awarded a leadership position.
This brings us to this year. Club XYZ really turned up the heat in a way that devastated me as a mother to see. I watched Child A spend almost an entire game not even making eye contact and showing no enthusiasm. When I tried to talk with her, she always changed the subject to Group AAA and began to positively glow.
I should have seen it coming at the beginning of this month. I didn’t. I don’t know why. Child A came to me and announced: I’m quitting Club XYZ. I want to focus on Group AAA.
She’d rumbled it a little at the end of the school year, but I thought I had pointed out all the benefits of completing her high school career with four years of Club XYZ. I thought I’d shown that being able to substitute Club XYZ for missed gym was a phenomenal extra perk. A month of silence at the beginning of the school year made me think I’d won.
I didn’t. She spent last week writing a letter of resignation that was phenomenal given her learning issues. I only had to help break the text up for ease of reading and refocus two sentences; she even had everything spelled right. She printed it off on my ex’s dime at the local library, and she turned it in.
Then I realized on the very night she was resigning that as a mother I won, just not the way I’d expected.
Child A has realized that Club XYZ no longer fit her goals and she could not learn anything more from them. She had assessed all her activities and was choosing to eliminate those that no longer fit the competent, professional she was becoming or wanting to become. She had the courage to stand and walk away knowing she would be criticized for leaving the more popular Club XYZ in favor of Group AAA and knowing she might stand alone without the support of any of her peers. (Although, from what I’ve seen, I suspect Group AAA members are laughing with delight inside and will surround her with all the support she needs. But I digress…)
Child A hit it out of the ballpark. She learned in her mid-teens what it took me three decades to learn. Seasons change, and people change; it’s okay to change your activities to reflect a change in goals and priorities. Sometimes, the loudest rhetoric is a silent back as the person walks away.
The student has surpassed and taught the teacher.