I thought I was available. I drive to and from events, try to have family meals, and promote group activities over video games. We focus on connecting as a family, but when it comes to my teenage daughter, I had to up my game this year. She needs me available for her, physically and emotionally, more now than ever.
A little background: She’s a 14 year-old freshman in public high school. It’s a big transition for most kids anyway, but even more so for her. See, my daughter came from a lot of years of homeschooling and being the “only” into a class of hundreds.
She’s very independent. She gets herself up and ready and packs her own lunch. Still, I started the first week of school getting up 15 minutes before her bus arrived, just to be there for her. I get to say things like, “That sweater looks great on you.” Or, “Did you see I got you some tapioca pudding for your lunch?” And sometimes I just sit in the living room while she finishes things up and, before I know it, she says, “So today, we’re supposed to (finish the sentence).”
Every day I get to say, “Hope you have a great day. I love you.” (Funny, as a homeschooling mom, I feel like I didn’t say that nearly enough.) It’s a sweet time to be encouraging. No one else is awake and she hasn’t had time to get mad about much yet, because being a teenager is hard.
She gets home from school an hour before her elementary-aged siblings and I want to really make the most of those precious minutes with just her. I know I have to be intentional without grilling her for details. She’s an introvert at heart and after a full day with people, I know I have to tread carefully.
Setting the Stage for Success
So, on day one, I bought some cookies (yes, I said “bought” – no judgment here) and set the plate on the front porch beside me where I wait for her bus. We said hello. She grabbed two cookies and went straight to her room.
The next day, I cut up some vegetables only suitable for dipping in ranch and set it before me with her own glass of lemonade on the back deck. It was the right formula: a snack she couldn’t grab and go + a ready made drink. She sat and told me a little about her day.
As the weeks have gone on, I’ve learned that being in the same space as her and providing some kind of snack is enough to set the stage. The rest I leave up to her. I don’t ask a lot of questions because I’ll get one word/not very informative answers. So, I stay close and do my own thing. But I’m ready when she wants to talk.
I’m Not as Busy as I Look
It may look like I’m emptying the dishwasher while she snacks, but what I’m really doing is waiting to put the dishes down and look her full in the face when she starts talking about what is on her mind. Any sentence that starts with, “So, apparently…” gets my full attention.
To an outsider, it looks like I’m folding laundry on the couch as she goes through her backpack. What I’m really doing is waiting to set down those towels and listen with my whole self when she says, “So, at lunch today…”
I may look like I’m setting the table as she starts her homework, but what I’m really doing is waiting for her to say, “Mom, can I talk to you about something?” Then I can sit right beside her and give her all I’ve got. Maybe not all the answers, but she gets all the ears and all the heart (and all the snacks) I can offer.