One year ago today, after saying yes 2 months prior and a lot of twists and turns, we became foster parents to a teenager for the very first time and grandparents to her baby. While little one has been here the whole time, we had an 8 month interruption with our teenager in the middle, but we are happily all reunited under one roof again.
I would like to go back in time one year ago to offer myself the following teenage parenting advice:
Go for the drive.
I’m an over-thinker, an over-talker, a constant fixer, a planner, a get-to-the-bottom-of-things kind of a gal. When there’s a problem, I want all the details and I want to right the wrong IMMEDIATELY. This is a good skill, a great skill even, and I’m grateful for my super Type A parents for passing these skills on to me, but these are not the solution to every problem when you are parenting a teenager. You need a variety of tools in your toolbox and I was using this one almost exclusively.
I spent a lot of time last year beating a nail with my only tool. This was sometimes the right tool and served my teenager well. This was at other times the wrong tool and exasperated my teenager, and pushed her from me. When we began asking the powers that be for permission to have our teenager return, Milkman and I had to do a lot of introspection. We talked about the things we looked forward to if approved, the things we were dreading, and the things we were scared about. We talked about things that were successful last time and the things that were not. I made a commitment to myself that I would not always try to fix every problem this time, that I would focus on the important things, and sort out the things that I didn’t need to bother with.
This time around there have been teaching moments, times to get to the bottom of things, times where we couldn’t let something hang, but there have already been many times where I pull out that hammer to nail out the problem, and I put it right back. I can’t fix every problem, and I don’t need to fix every problem. I can’t erase every tear, and I can’t undo trauma.
This means there are times when we sit and cry together. Other times, we come up with solutions together. But today? We went for a drive. No, not a drive where we had a soul-baring conversation, a drive where we got in the car, rolled down the windows, and blasted music— not unfamiliar to her Christian music or music from my generation— music that would make her feel freer. There was no talking, no nonchalantly trying to get to the bottom of a story, no analyzing, no fixing. Just the two of us, a car, wind blowing our hair everywhere, and loud, VERY LOUD music. We both felt better for it, and by the time we got home to 5 little kids and Milkman, we were smiling and lighter-hearted.
So, Rachel of April 18th, 2019, go for the drive. You aren’t going to fix anything by pushing someone to their limit. It’s okay to let things melt away on the open road sometimes. (Also, it’s gonna be tough, but the good days make it worth it, keep pressing on!)