About 5 or so years ago, maybe more, I went to church. And not the church I usually go to (when I do go), but one of those big mega-churches, where the pastor is younger and handsome and charismatic. Where huge TVs flash scripture in an MTV-like way. Where a loud, opening band rocks God’s word.
I felt incredibly uncomfortable and frowned on the forced rhetoric of the pastor, the glitz of the environment. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, and the majority of my time in church had been spent silently sitting down, then getting up, then repeating phrases, and finally shaking the hands of my neighbors with a quiet, “Peace be with you.” And while I will always have reverence for the Catholic church, it had long ago left me listless, bored, and uninspired.
So, I church hopped and found some Christian churches I very much liked. The pastors were relatable, the messages understandable, the bands quietly lovely (and sometimes even played bluegrass!), the people within kind, and no TV’s flashed out messages.
I can’t really remember what brought me to this mega-church. Perhaps I went with a friend? My memory fails me. But there I was, in uncomfortable misery getting a headache from the flashing TV screens, when the pastor said something that peaked my interest:
“From the ages of birth to 6, as a parent, you are the disciplinarian; from the ages 6 to 12, you are the teacher; and from 13-18, you are the coach.”
This is a bit of wise advice, I thought at the time, and for this reason, despite the churches flaws to me, I am forever thankful that I went to church that Sunday. This saying has stuck with me for years.
I was very much a disciplinarian with Maddie when she was younger, sometimes too hard on her, but always very authoritative. She knew the rules, she followed them, and if they were broken, there were clear consequences that I always followed through with (I never hit her, but I did take away and then give away her toys). And as she moved into elementary school, I was still a disciplinarian, but also a teacher to her. Now that she was able to understand concepts more clearly, we had longer discussions about what is right and what is wrong, and when she did something wrong, I was less inclined to take away a toy, so much as to give her some sort of punishment that really taught a lesson. Sometimes it worked, other times I failed miserably.
But, now. Now Maddie is 13, and I have t be the coach, which means sitting on the sidelines, giving her the freedom to play, watching her make mistakes, and only stepping in when she most needs it, when danger is really close.
Damn this is going to be difficult, especially because having a teenage girl, I’ve decided, is like having a bi-polar person living under your roof.
Proof: Maddie’s 13th birthday was on Sunday, March 4th, and when I asked her what she wanted to do, she said, “Go to my favorite place for breakfast, go see a movie with you and Luke, and then have dinner with the whole family at the usual place [the Japanese restaurant we’ve been going to every year for her birthday since she was 1]. I just kind of want to be with family.”
Ahhhh, melt my heart. So that’s what we did.
(At her birthday breakfast)
(Luke giving Maddie her birthday card and present).
(Luke, Maddie, and I at the 3D version of The Lorax [Maddie’s choice])
(At her favorite restaurant)
(More birthday dinner fun)
It was a pleasant day. Maddie was happy, Luke was happy, I was happy. My teenager is a wonderful, I thought.
But then, came her birthday party a week later: a house party with 25 girls! There was pizza, a DJ, dancing, cake, snacks all night long, a backyard fire pit (that caught the grass on fire after one teenage pyromaniac started throwing burning paper napkins into the air), a movie, and a sleepover (though I don’t think anyone got much sleep). Maddie and my sister designed this huge party and I was thrilled to throw it. I made the invitations, helped Jon and my sister set up, and prepared myself for a fun night. After all, this was the kind of party, I wish I’d had at 13!
(Maddie ready for the party to begin! And looking dapper!!!)
(The girls arriving)
(The HOT DJ)
(Ryan and Megan dancing to their song: “Love will Tear us Apart” by Joy Division. So sweet. We all (as in all adults) started dancing as well).
(And the girls thought it was sooooo funny to see the adults dancing that they all came in and videoed us with their phones. We’re probably up on youtube. Maybe we’ll go viral!)
(Back to dancing!)
(Happy Birthday Maddie!!!)
(Getting reading to watch a movie)
(Yes, 24 girls really DID spend the night!)
In the morning, after we all listened to giggling and talking to 6am (when most of the girls finally fell asleep), I was so happy for Maddie. She had a great time, and most importantly, she was respectful and kind: to me, her aunt, and her friends. To be quite honest, I can’t say the same for several of the bratty, snobby, clicky, constantly-on-their-phones-facebooking-all night girls that stayed the night. And I’m being nice.
The flip-side of being a teenage. The mean, bi-polar side.
But Maddie, she’s not quite there yet. Of course, she’s moody and difficult to deal with sometimes (her best friend’s dad on facebook today wrote: “Decided that a movie about teenagers killing each other is exactly what I need right now” [aka The Hunger Games], and I have to admit, I feel like that myself today),but most of the time, for now, Maddie’s a kind and compassionate girl. I’m lucky.
So, I’m on the course to being a coach for the next few years. I will sit tight on the sideline, which will be so difficult (especially if you had come to the party and witnessed some the these girls and their attitudes and shenanigans!). I want to play for her. I want to make sure she does everything correctly. But, I can’t. I know it.
So, I’m letting go a little bit. Slowly. For now, she’s being coached with a mic in her ear and a helmet cam.
And a GPS tracking device and an alcohol detector in her brain and a private detective following her everywhere.
Or am I?