Yesterday, while doing some grocery shopping , my teenager made me cry. Not in a belligerent back-talking, eye-rolling kind of way, but in a tearing-up-because-of-how-blessed-I-am-to-be-her-mom kind of way.
My daughter, whom I will call A, has been having her share of difficulties lately — anxiety, depression, ADHD, all rolling around inside of her , clanking about and wreaking havoc. There we were, in the store, and she was talking about her day, about kids in her class, about life, death, politics, music, art, books, religion, and anything else that crossed her mind for a split second. Then she told me that during art class, she may have gone off on a girl. That statement was followed by a hasty, “But she deserved it! She needed to hear it, and I just couldn’t sit there and let it go.”
I gritted my teeth and waited to hear what had happened. Apparently, my daughter lost her temper with the girl because she did not appreciate her parents. She was talking about things she couldn’t have, what she didn’t like about them, and how she had “daddy issues,” how she liked her mom better because her dad worked a lot.
Step Back and See the Reality
My daughter said she became furious. She said she, more than most people, understand that you don’t know what might be going on in someone’s life, but sometimes a person’s biggest problem is what they are going to wear that day. She said she got upset with her for laughingly using the term “daddy issues,” when that meant something entirely different to a lot of people — girls who had been abused or abandoned or neglected by their fathers. Not a term you use just because he embarrassed you in front of your friends, or you were mad because he worked late and you didn’t get to do something you wanted to do.
My daughter asked her who she thought paid for her tuition, her clothes, her expensive shoes, or for going out with her friends. She told her she would have none of those things if her parents didn’t work hard to provide them for her. She told her she had material things, she had two parents who loved her, and she had everything she needed, because they worked hard to provide her with opportunities. She told her that maybe that night, when her dad got home, instead of whining, she should give him a hug and thank him.
Mother's Day Comes Early
She went on to say that the whole thing had got her thinking about how easy it is to take things for granted, and to not appreciate what you have. She stopped in the middle of the store to hug me, to tell me that she appreciated what I did for her, but she didn’t tell me often enough. She said she knew I didn’t have the best job in the world, and that I didn’t have a lot of money, but I always gave her what she needed, and then some. She knew I made sacrifices to make her life better, and, more important, that I was always there for her. She said she wanted me to know that she was never embarrassed by me or ashamed of me, and that she would do her best to make me proud of her.
I am proud of her, every single day. I’m proud of her when she’s brilliant, kind, and compassionate. I’m proud of her when she’s scattered, chaotic, and grumpy. I’m proud of her when she is up, and just as proud of her when she is down. It’s not hard to be proud. She makes it easy for me.
So I stood there in the store and I might have let a tear or two fall. Sometimes, your kid lets you know, in an unexpected way, she is paying attention, and that maybe, just maybe, you’re doing something right.