Grace is an amazing young woman. She has a 4.4 GPA, takes college and honors courses, is on the school dance team, hangs out with a wonderful circle of young ladies and isn't dating yet. But, she's still a teen, and boy, is it tough in many ways?
This girl is cocooning like never before (see my piece on this for reference). Life is all about her. She can't help it, but it's annoying: leaves plates and wrappers all over the house, wants what she wants immediately, responds to her mom and my questions with monosyllabic answers, has her face buried in her phone, and seems to know way more than we do.
Yet, her mom and I call her on these things and still try to teach her what we expect, but it just doesn't seem to be getting through that teen cocoon of hers. It's easy to throw up your hands and just wait out the next 700 days until she's off to college, but, of course we can't.
For the summer, Riley signed up for a Spanish course through our local city college. It will cover two years of Spanish in six weeks, all online. So, it's pretty intense. The course started a couple days after we had returned from a family trip to Mexico, so Riley was already behind on her first assignment.
She worked an entire day to catch up. Her assignment was due by midnight. She worked, took breaks, then worked some more. Ten minutes before midnight she pressed "send" and discovered that all of her work was lost. She was so frustrated. She's a teen and this is her summer. She worked her butt off and for what?
She told us she wanted to drop the class and she'd take it again later in the school year. Riley is a responsible young lady, and I know she'll do what she says, but I also know that she has no idea how much work she'll have during her junior year. I told her if that's what she wanted that I would back her up on it. Then, I was surprised when she asked what I would do (my teen girl actually asked for my advice?). I told her that I would just barrel through it during the summer, and I'd be so pleased later that it was behind me, whereas if I put it off, it would be there looming over my future.
She thought for about three seconds, then said, "I still want to drop it" (so much for listening to Dear Old Dad). But, I got it. It's summer and frustrating, and she wants to socialize more with her friends. My wife suggested she sleep on it and make her final decision the next morning. "Why? I already know what I'm going to do," she whined.
"Just go to sleep, and you can drop then." So, she slept. Next morning, I hear Grace up in her room, but she doesn't come out. Finally, I knock on her door and see her at her computer. "Whatcha working on?" I ask.
"You're not dropping?" I asked with as little emotion as possible.
"No," she responded monosyllabically.
I left her room and was so proud of her. I was stunned. I was shocked. And, I realized that our teen daughter really does hear us. And, because we have not given up on her, even though it often feels we are talking to a beautiful brick wall with her face buried in her iPhone, some of what we say gets through.
Never tell Riley, but this gives us hope as well as reason to continue to offer our advice, to tell her to put away her shoes, to be kind to her sister, and to look at us when she talks. They hate to admit it, but our teens still hear us, and although their prefrontal cortex may not be fully developed, given the right advice and enough time to ponder it, they can still surprise us.
image courtesy of ©MorgueFile.com/Aroldo