Yesterday my oldest daughter turned 11 (11!!). Coincidentally, she also had a dance concert and a small musical theater performance over the weekend. These events gave me ample opportunity to really watch her and to appreciate how much she has grown and has started to create her own life.
My daughter and I have had seemingly constant conflict during the last 5-6 years. Given this tempestuous dynamic, I have worried a great deal about how our relationship would fare in the inevitably rocky teenage years. Fortunately, with the help of Breck and my incredible husband, I have worked really hard during the last few months to understand what it really means to accept my child for who she is. To realize that parenting her does NOT mean changing her.
I am learning to uncouple boundary setting and disapproval. I am questioning whether I really need to stop or alter behavior that has no tangible impact on me or anyone else, but merely contradicts my values or preferences. I am figuring out that, in many ways, I serve my daughter most by just getting out of her way even (and probably especially) when it scares the living daylights out of me.
I have been shocked and delighted at the way these changes in my approach to parenting my daughter have brought about an immediate and notable change in the closeness and ease of our relationship. The number of times she seeks me out, invites my participation in something or just wants me close have increased dramatically (She even wanted to go to her birthday dinner last night wearing matching outfits with me– in public!!!). We still butt heads on a regular basis, but the flare ups are brief and not accompanied by lingering resentment.
By no means do I feel like I have everything figured out. I know that, as my daughter grows, the parenting challenges will only continue and increase (and matching outfits will exist only in my memory. . .) . But I am deeply grateful for the relationship we have today and for the possibility that I can keep growing and maturing right along with her.