Our daughter graduated college six months ago. She is a functioning adult living on her own in a city 300 miles away. Right now, I should be patting myself on the back for my contribution to raising her. But, instead, I keep thinking of all the things I wished I’d instilled in her during her teenage years. Here are my top three.
1. Tampons will change your life.
I remember learning how to use these when I was a teenager. It felt like a competition between me and the tampon. I finally got the hang of it, but it took a whole box and three periods to accomplish. Once I did, I never went back. The freedom! The pride! Our daughter played competitive volleyball, so I knew she’d benefit — but how do I approach the subject? Hand her an open box and the directions insert and say, “Here, try these. Good luck?” By the time I finally asked her if she wanted to learn how to use them, she told me one of her volleyball teammates beat me to it. I feel like I missed a unique opportunity to bond.
2. Just because you have a past doesn’t mean you have a future.
Our daughter, like most of us, wants to help people and doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. Consequently, she attracted boyfriends that came and went and came back again. I saw her allow young men she’d stopped seeing back into her life, only to end the relationships — again. At the time, I figured that’s just how puppy love works, plus she did not welcome my interference in her love life. I wish I’d taught her how to forgive but not forget. I wish I’d thought to say: “getting back with a former flame is easy and comfortable, but if they hurt you mentally emotionally or physically, it’s best to let them go and not look back.”
3. Failure is not the end. It’s the beginning.
I’m learning to code. It’s normal for my scripts to fail, because trial and error is part of the process. I’ve discovered trial and error is a useful tool in many areas of life. I wish I’d had this perspective when our daughter was a teenager. I wish I’d asked, “What did we learn from this?” more often than, “Why did you do that?!” Teenagers are supposed to fail. They’re experiencing situations (driving, getting jobs, falling in love) for the first time. I wish I’d framed these as life lessons to teach instead of situations that inconvenienced me. I missed opportunities to help her identify triggers that made her choose the way she did, and ask her how she thought she could avoid making the same mistake again. Don’t get me wrong: I feel good about what I did manage to tell my daughter when she was a teenager. I just hope I live long enough to tell the above three things to my future granddaughters.
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