What I Learned from my Teenagers This Summer
With the start of the new school year, I have had many thoughts and reflections. First, I know I am not the only one to think that this summer flew by! How does that happen? It seems that every year the time goes faster and faster, to the point that I experience an anxious state about all of the things I intended to do but didn’t for one reason or another.
I have learned that the older I get, the faster the time goes, so I was surprised to hear my children comment on the way to the first day of school that they too also felt that this summer flew by! I think I can explain or rationalize that it flew by because I spent so much time driving them back and forth to their summer jobs, which meant that I really had to manage my time. The leisurely evenings I might have spent in a kayak waiting for the sunset at Rehoboth Beach Sailing Association were cut short by the knowledge that I had to jump in the car to go pick up someone from work!
This summer started off exciting because my children were old enough to have paying jobs! They were all very committed to working this summer and made it happen. It was equally gratifying to both me and them to get a paycheck! We have been having conversations since toddlerhood about working, making a contribution to buying a car, paying car insurance, buying books for college, etc., so to see the satisfaction they received from getting that first paycheck was really gratifying. I was happy for them!
They also set a little competition among themselves to see who could save the most money by the end of the summer. Two of them had jobs that included tips, this was a bit disappointing to the other one who was only making minimum wage! Needless to say, she was the one who did not make the most and consequently did not save the most. Good news is, it was a real motivator for her and she already has her sights set on a job with tips next summer!
Although the fact that they were all working meant there was a lot of time management happening, it gave me a time to really be an observer of my children, specifically as to their work ethic. You would think that maybe they would all be the same given they all come from the same nurturing environment, but this was not the case. They were all very different.
One of them was all in. She worked the most, never complained about going to work, and never tried to find someone to work for her if there was an event or outing that she couldn’t attend because of her work. She worked the most and therefore saved the most. She has even committed to working weekends during the school year if she can.
The other two did not demonstrate that same ethic. They complained about having to go at times, tried to find people to pick up time for them, and really just did the minimum. They also stopped working before Labor Day because they wanted to be off at the end of the summer. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed because I expected them to work right up until the end!
I think what surprised me is this evaluation of work ethic is my fear that this is a glimpse into their future. And, the knowing that I may not be able to change it.
I reflected back on my first jobs. I worked because I wanted to. I wanted to have money to buy my own clothes, gas, and pay for my own stuff. I never had the expectation that someone else would do it for me! I thought that I was communicating this to my children as well. So, I am now at a point of questioning if this difference in work ethic is a reflection of parenting? I am going to sit with that and see what happens next year!
Another thing I learned from my children this summer is that my kids are normal teenagers. And, that with this journey I have also learned not to take anything personally!
I read a book called “Untangled: Guiding Teen Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood” by Lisa Damour. This down to earth parenting guide to teenaged girls (she states you can relate it to boys as well) sheds light on the normal developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups. It provided me with a lot of understanding of what I was experiencing with my two teen daughters. All the while, it reinforced what I already was experiencing. It spoke to me and reminded me not to take any of it personally. She also answers a lot of questions and gives really good insight into navigating this very challenging developmental transition. I learned a lot and can now be an observer of them while knowing that they are really normal!
Just the other day, I dropped them off at their first day of high school. I was not emotional. I was excited for them! I was just as excited as I was for them on their first day of kindergarten. I was not emotional that day either as I know many parents are. I was excited for them to experience something new, a new challenge, a time in their life that they will either look back upon fondly or not.
I cannot control this for them. I can only be eager to hear about it, help them to problem solve, validate their fears and anxieties, and love them the best way I know how. I look back over the past 14 years and I cannot believe how fast that went!
When they are babies, you cannot imagine them going to high school! Now that they are in high school, I struggle to remember them as babies! What I continue to learn from this summer and, more importantly, what I am reminded of every day, is that all we have is right now. There is no past and no future guarantees. I want to be in this moment with them, good work ethic or not, normal teenager or not, happy high schooler or not, I want to show up fully present and ready to learn – with them and from them. I trust that there will be plenty of sunsets for me to witness someday!