Sunday, November 03, 2019

Notes from the Field: Freshman Fall

Our family survived the first 9 weeks of high school and I confess it is so much more fun than I imagined! Each of my freshmen dived in head first in different ways.

Parker is thrilled to have robotics on his class schedule and Mario Smash Brothers as a club. His inaugural year as the school mascot has proven to be a great fit for him, even though prolonged Summer-into-Fall heat made the job a sweaty one. An introvert with a penchant for silliness is quite happy letting loose behind the anonymity of a mask!

Ryland is thriving as the JV football kicker (with occasional Varsity showings), a soccer club and stagecraft/set design as his arts elective. Last month he located his long-desired pickup truck and loves being an enthusiastic inviter to Young Life functions.

Kate just wrapped up a cross country season which entailed running 6-7 miles a day (often before the sun comes up), setting new personal records as a result of that hard work and making it to the state meet! As Winter approaches she will dip back into music a bit more with guitar lessons and performing with the upper school's female a capella singing group.

All three have now had the sometimes bumpy experiences of asking and being asked to the Homecoming dance, learning to organize/make social plans, figuring out how to maintain their studies and keep their personal faith/church involvement a priority amidst this active social life!

AND we've still been driving, driving, driving.

It has been a whirlwind--but I only get to ride this train once so I am here for it!

Lest this sound too much like a bragging Christmas letter, I offer the reminder that we live real lives with challenges and struggles. While not wanting to "air the dirty laundry," of my growing young adults, the metaphor of laundry has been in the front of my mind the last few weeks.

Because we live only three miles from our school, I frequently pick my children up in stages as they finish up their afternoon activities.  While some would argue it teaches them character to sit and wait for me to make one trip, I am grateful for the private, distraction-free conversation time with each of my people. (In-town car rides are phone-free for passengers in our family.)

The way they toss their backpack in the car and settle into their seats is often a barometer for the type of day my teens have experienced. I brace myself for whatever may come as our car becomes a confessional for 15-year-olds in their rawest, exhausted state.

Some days my questions about their day are met with shrugs and indifference, but other days my passengers start shedding their emotional baggage even before they've taken off their backpacks. I have read countless books and articles. I know to listen more than I speak. I (mostly) don't freak out. I strive to be their safe place.

There is something intimate about the car, so we often linger in the driveway to complete a story before they go inside.

Once they leave the car it is time for food, relaxation, and homework...and I am left to sort through the dirty laundry of emotions, stories, and worries they seem to have deposited in my passenger seat.

Most days I head back out for the next pick up in short order, so the metaphorical laundry gets shelved to make room for the next teen's dropoff. By the end of the afternoon my heart has quite a pile to pray over: Hurt feelings, misconceptions, mean comments, unrequited crushes, rumors, academic stress, perceived slights.

And here's what the first nine weeks of high school drama have taught me: I am frequently spending more time evaluating, studying and ruminating in this stuff than my kids are. They drop it off with me, a safe place, and move on. I realized I was sometimes still rolling around in the mound of stinky teenage feelings a day or two later. They had long since moved on.

Ninety-eight percent of the afterschool verbal dumps aren't terrible stains requiring treatment. They are merely the equivalent of clothing that had been through a normal day and just needed a good wash and dry to be ready for their next wear. This is the point where I really appreciate the dirty laundry metaphor. Why was I rolling around in piles of stinky clothes that simply needed to be put through a good wash cycle?

This realization has really helped me recognize my place in this teen process. I am to listen, to love, to pray, to coach (wash, rinse) and then repeat. Our home is the emotional structure built over the last 16 years--safe, loving, peaceful, restorative--and now we do the daily work.

Dr. Lisa D'Amour, an author I enjoy, calls it dumping their emotional trash. I love her reminder that "even the sturdiest of adolescents would sag under the weight of their feelings if they couldn’t toss some of them into handy and dependable receptacles. .. the gift that so many parents give their teenagers all year round: the willingness to accept, and find a way to dispose of, the inevitable debris that comes with growing up." 

All of this is not to say the much bigger issues will not come. This is real life. But for now, I am learning not to major in the minors and to keep that emotional laundry cycle moving.


Laura Nettles said...

Love reading your posts. You have such a gift for writing, and you parent with such grace and thoughtfulness. Well done, Mama!

Linda Kay said...

I keep checking for updates. I love reading and following. Don't forget us! We are learning and growing with you and your family!