Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My little stranger

I have a stranger living under my roof. And she is my lovely 16-year-old daughter.

When she was born and handed to me in the hospital, I looked at her and said, "Who are you?" and spent the next 16 years finding out.

When you are the mother of a baby or later, a small child, you feel you know everything about them. You know what they eat, how they slept, what they did from morning to night. You are there to experience their discoveries and their moods. You are in constant conversation with them.

Then they become teenagers and you have no idea who they are.

They become contemplative. Secretive. They share confidences with their friends, not with you. They disappear for hours on end and don’t tell you a thing. My daughter comes home from her evening French class at the Alliance Francaise and shuts herself in her room to talk to her new boyfriend. She shares her feelings with him.

And so begins another new aspect of parenting. But no one ever told you about this one.

The success of a parent – adult child relationship rests on being able to treat your son or daughter with the exquisite politesse of a new friend about whom you find everything fascinating.

You cannot assume anything or trample on the currency of your former intimacy. You must respect their lives, their boundaries, their new likes and dislikes. As their parent, your new role is to simply support them with unconditional love.

That’s what keeps them coming home, happy to see you, happy to be with you.

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