Friday, November 16, 2012

Raising teenage daughters - bridging to their future

"Mom, what have I accomplished in my life?!" A panicked question from my sixteen year old daughter. There is so much pressure on teens to succeed. A homeschooling teen doesn't have the bench marks of her structured school counterparts. I had hoped to avoid much of that pressure by homeschooing, which we probably do for a longer time, then slam- the PSAT - awakens them to the benchmarks of other high schoolers (no results yet). I don't like a life being summed up and evaluated in a multiple choice test.  And I urge her it isn't. She worries, just like I do. I tell her not to, but words don't stop worry, only prayer.

"Trust in the power of the Holy Eucharist and Our Blessed Lady.
Do what you can and leave the rest to God." *

She has actually accomplished much and has done so in her own way and on her own terms. She basically schools herself and does quite well. She wants control of her schedule, study time and how she absorbs information. Her math skills are amazing, her college English class has her excited about writing,  her violin lessons are better than therapy. She loves to express herself in her paintings, music, cooking and writing projects of her own design. I am so thankful we home school so she can discover and pursue so many different interests.

So, what is she worrying about? The Future, the unknown.  With a long list of what she has already accomplished, why so much pressure? She says she doesn't want to let us down. She think she lives in the shadow of an older brother with a tract record to be compared against.

"Let us strive to fair well in this life and in the next." *

I tell her I just want her to be happy, healthy, faithful and strong and to enjoy her journey. It's hard on girls as they look toward the future not knowing should they pursue a demanding career while thinking about possibilities of staying home with her future (today unimagined) children. I think young ladies have to be ready somewhat for both. There are so many what ifs..At the beginning of our homeschooling excursion,  I had a conviction that my kids should be themselves, follow their own interests, learn a their own pace. Putting my goals in their heads feels counter intuitive, although they live in the shadow of the choices my husband and I have made, our influence is there.

I grew up with three sisters with the subtle focus on understanding we will go to college and earn a degree that will enable us to support ourselves. We did, we each achieved goals in our careers, but chose to leave those careers to stay and raise our children. College is much more expensive now, and it is harder on a woman to stay home with her children if she has college debt.

I have four girls, I am one of four girls.What do we teach our daughters?  I mull over this concept quite a bit and talk about it with other mothers.  How should we council them to live as adult women? Should we spend as much time as possible preparing them for college and pursue a career that will support themselves financially, or spend more time focuses on homemaking skills? A balance is the obvious answer, but not as easy as it sounds. Choices need to be made on what to focus on; there are only so many hours in a day. Homemaking skills are important. All woman need to be able to run a home efficiently, whether working full time away or at home. Her home will be a happier home if she can carry out those tasks without stress; if those homemaking arts are part of her being.

I want to raise strong daughters, strong women. Women who are dependable, brave, loyal and capable. I want them to be loving mothers, faithful wives and, when and if called, able to help their families survive and thrive, and most of all, living their Faith.

No wonder she feels pressure! But there is also the freedom for women. We can have it "all", just not at the same time. We can continue to pursue our interests while raising children. Women are most likely not to follow a given structured career path as often as men There are many options for working part time.

"Patience smooths away lots of difficulties." *

How do you tell a sixteen year old her whole life is ahead that God knows her best plan? Patience and love, and encouragement to plod along and do what she can. I understand, obtaining patience has been my hardest battle. I'd miss life wanting to know what things turned out. Patience, let God unfold the mysteries joys and struggles; let us not add up the struggle by forcing our will.

Love the ability to be her counselor and watch her life blossom. Council and guide through the paints  unknown roadblocks ahead. Offer Unconditional love and enjoy this time. Before they are full grown, many dangers and temptations await. Be a shoulder to cry on and a source of strength when needed.

"[To teenagers]
Look, you will soon face a dangerous crisis; the devil will try to ensnare you. To start with, he will tell you that frequent Communion is good for children, not for adults, and that once in a great while is quite enough for you. Then he will do his best to keep you from sermons by making you feel bored by God’s words. He will convince you that certain things are not sinful. Then you’ll have to tussle with friends and what they might say, with [dangerous] readings, with your own passions, and so on. Be on your guard. Do not let the devil rob you of that peace of mind and purity of soul which makes you God’s friends!" *

* Quotes from Saint Don Bosco, saint who raised boys to men.

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