There she is. That girl. That girl that's as tall as me. That girl that is turning into a woman. That girl who sometimes gets mistaken for a woman. That girI is my girl.
It's easy enough really. To overlook them. It's easy to let them pass by as they do their own hair, make their own snacks, set their own alarms. You know, as they take care of themselves. I hate to even say it but it's true. It's easy to forget that they are still children sometimes.
They need more of you now than they did when they were little.
The other evening I was putting my toddler to bed. As he was crying that he didn't want to be rocked and as I was trying to get him into a new diaper and PJs, my teenager called to me and told me that she still needed to do my hair and makeup. She had asked me earlier if she could practice on me. I told her I was planning on jumping in the shower when I was done so it was pointless now because we wouldn't have time to.
She responded with grace that it was okay and she understands. She also responded with disappointment. I could hear it in her voice. That's when I realized that my future self will probably remember this moment. I decided to stay up an extra 30 minutes so that we could do her activity together.
Here's the thing. Little kids take a lot of time. They need help with EVERYTHING. But big kids need such a different kind of help that I think is more crucial. I notice that as kids get older, that parental participation decreases. Adult participation in general decreases. Parties aren't populated. Reading circles don't happen. Classroom helpers rarely exist. In fact, I went to a Parent Lunch Day at her school this year and only saw a handful of other parents in the school.
I challenge you to lean in more now and not less. Let me tell you why.
When looking back at the time that I am spending with my teenager, I realize that I have a window. I have a window into her life. I have a window into her decisions. I have a window into her concerns and the opportunity to help guide her through life. I have an opportunity to actively listen and that is more important than ever at this phase in her life.
Her makeup practice turned into a discussion about her schoolmate who has offered her marijuana twice. A lunch together lead to a discussion about how to handle her classmate that is driving her bonkers on a project. It gave us an opporunity to talk about team work and how to rise above. A trip in which I forced her to run an errand with me lead to us talking about boys and what to do when faced with difficult decisions when you don't want to hurt someone's feelings.
We talked about very real life issues and experiences. We talked about things that sometimes children don't ever get to talk about and instead just have to experience on their own.
I want to have a window into those experiences and input into her decisions. She needs me to use that window. They need us to be there and they need us to make it count. They need us to prioritize them even if they aren't tugging at our pant leg or asking for a snack. They need us to do more work. They need us to take action.