My oldest daughter Maggie turned 13 this month, and she will start Junior High School next week. Over the past year, I have focused my time and energy on learning to know her better and appreciate her more. Maggie is an obedient child at home and at school. She wants to do the right thing and will take action to make sure others do the right thing too. She can be bossy, but she is also a very hard worker who willingly looks after people neglected by others. Her passions are reading, drawing and playing with her little sisters. She is very affectionate and loves to hug. She needs to be hugged back. Sometimes, she is rather lazy and will not complete a task to the best of her ability; however, she will always get the task done, and she will do it on time. Maggie does not like to be late. I am often just a little bit late.
To get to know her better, I started to listen to her more. I asked more questions. Frequently, I offered advice or stories about my own growing up, especially in Junior High. I’ve tried to be honest about my own faults and how they hurt me. Especially, I’ve encouraged her to trust other people and give them second chances. Even if someone snubs you today or says something mean, don’t assume they don’t want to be your friend anymore (as I always did). Always leave room for them to change their mind, to repent, to start again. Be like Jesus that way.
I’ve tried to trust her more. To give her jobs to do that she doesn’t realize she can do alone. I let her pick out the colors and design for re-doing her room last summer. This summer, her sisters wanted to re-do their room as a “sea life” mural. Maggie volunteered to design it for them. At first, this was entirely beyond my comfort zone. I am an artist in spirit if not in training and I pride myself on creatively putting together my children’s rooms. Besides, I had just re-decorated that room a couple of years ago in pink and green, my favorite color combination (for rooms, not fashion–I can’t wear pink).
Yet…I could sense this was an important challenge of motherhood. Was it time to relenquish my control over the decoration of the room in order to allow my girls the freedom to experiment, to create, to try and maybe even to fail (as I had with Maggie’s previous room–a disasterous olive/gold/maroon creation).
Before we had children, my husband and I ruminated while on a hike on how we could raise children who would grow up to be responsible, capable adults. I remember he startled me with his comment that part of that process would involve handing over various responsiblities to the children as they grew up.
So–I let Maggie re-do the room with the help of her sisters. But I also walked along side of her by helping her finish the project. I did some of the painting and I did most of the rather boring outlining. In the end, I am surprised to find I rather like the room. Kids who come to see it want a room just like it, although I think their moms are horrified at the idea. It has mermaids, castles, fish, treasure (with jewels and coins actually stuck to the wall) and even Shamu (Steffi’s favorite!). A room filled with fantasy, dreams and a mom’s belief that her daughter is more important than anything else.