We are negotiating these transition years with a great deal of angst, frustration, and—when we can step back and look at the bigger picture—laughter as our daughter Jessie’s drive for independence often leads us down what we (as her parents) feel are major detours or even crashes (of will). Of course, as parents our opinion is suspect at best.
Anyone who has been to our house knows that, while the house is a disaster, our plans for independence would rival the best book on the subject. We have checklists (for her morning routine, for the evening routine, for food, for homework, for breakfast). We have visual cues (for laundry, for making and packing lunch, for taking a shower). We even have clocks colour coded to support her telling time. What we don’t have is any degree of ‘buy-in’ from Jessie, or what we as parents would label ‘success.’
Our biggest challenge these days is getting Jessie to plan. Plan her day, plan her goals, plan her homework, plan her precious time with friends, plan getting out the door on time so she doesn’t miss the bus. We have backed off on rescuing her (we no longer drive her to school when she is late, remind her when her homework is due, gather her dance clothes and costumes together, or make her check her email) and then have to lock ourselves in the basement to stop ourselves from intervening to make it all work out.
Somehow, she does not quite grasp that telling me that she needs hawk wings for a performance that is in 2 hours is not a terribly effective plan. She looks at me first in desperation, then in anger. What kind of a mother am I, that I can’t make hawk wings in a ten-minute time frame. “But, I’ve made a commitment!” she wails (oh yes, she has the language down, just can’t make the connection to HER role in it all).
Then yesterday she came home from school very excited about . . . yet another scheme. Jessie always has lots of schemes ... for creating a choir, making a movie, writing a documentary, going on the road with Miley Cyrus, living in New York with her best friend, buying our local rundown movie theatre—the Mayfair, stopping all injustice in the world, being the most popular girl on the planet ... and the list goes on. Great, I say. What’s the plan?
And low and behold she had one! A very detailed plan! That started with a rough copy of a letter she wrote to the Jonas Brothers (I refrained from asking WHICH class she wrote this in. I don’t want to know, and if I ask then, as a parent I will have to say, again, you need to be paying attention in class to what is going on IN class! Which I am tired of saying and I am sure she is tired of hearing and which really makes no difference. Ah yes, the humbling experience of parenting a teen—when we are faced with our utter powerlessness, which I have heard is supposed to lead to a spiritual awakening but has only really sent me into expensive therapy.)
I do have to share the letter with you, because she said I could and because, when I ignore the fact that it is to the Jonas Brothers, it actually demonstrates a certain degree of skill in its structure and its argument. It goes like this:
TO: Jonas Brothers.
Politely !!!!!!!! (yes, 8 exclamation points)
My name is Jessie Huggett and I write lyrics and I was wondering if we could get together so I can show you my lyrics and you guys can help me with the music and the beat and the tempo and everything. And maybe I could come on the tours to be your lyricist? I know Nick is the songwriter, but have you tried to get a lyricist to write the songs for you?
This will be like a huge opportunity that you cannot miss out on. Please. Pretty please. With whipped cream on top.
It will be great opportunity for me as well, because when I grow up I want to be a Hollywood lyricist. That is my dream.
I also have a laptop. I can type. Plus I have a printer. If you guys let me go with you on tours, I can type the lyrics out and I can print them out and you guys can have the printed copies.
Thank you so much,
Now, the letter is pretty good, but the piece de résistance is the plan. All neatly written out and the key to the whole scheme.
Here’s my plan (writes Jessie)
Step 1: Make Letter.
Step 2: Type out the letter.
Step 3: Ask Mom to print it out.
Step 4: Get stamps.
Step 5: Address the letter.
Step 6: Mail the Letter.
Step 7: Wait until they respond.
Step 8: Receive the responded letter and read it.
Step 9: When they say yes, say “Oh Yeah” very loud.
“Oh yeah!” very loud, is what I exclaimed when she shared her plan with me. All our hard work has paid off! Not in the way that we had planned (we still despair her ever getting out the door on time), but in the way that SHE has planned. And that’s the point isn’t it? When it comes to something truly meaningful and important to her, she can plan how to get there. Baby steps, baby steps. Both going forward (her) and backing off (us).
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