Friday, May 07, 2010

Dear Mom

I am not sure if I will ever have a daughter. Oh, certainly one day there will be daughters-in-law, but I am not at all sure that there will ever be a teenaged woman in the same household as myself. In some ways that makes me very sad. Yes, really. I got into the whole teaching gig to begin with because I really love young people. I love watching them grow, change, develop and learn. Even when I was an older teenager, I loved taking the younger girls under my wing--showing them around the junior high school, helping them transition into our Young Women group, listening to all their problems and stories at Girls' Camp. Though I have no actual parenting experience when it comes to teenage girls, I have loads of experience observing them in almost every other setting. In the last 12 years, I have continuously been serving in the Young Women, teaching teenagers at school, or tutoring them one-on-one.

It is interesting to note that these three activities have seldom overlapped. It is as if the Lord knows exactly what I need or something.

For Mother's Day, here is a letter from the young woman living in your house. . . . or who one day will be. It is not a letter she would ever dream of sending herself, it is only in retrospect that she will come to see just how important some of this might have been. The trick with parenting is figuring out ahead of time what is important.

Dear Mom,

Let me tell you first of all that I love you very much. Yes, yes, I know I yelled at you just yesterday about the skirt you told me was too tight for me to wear anymore, but my temper really is short-lived. I won't make any promises about not letting it happen again. I'm sure it will. Please forgive me anyway. Your love and forgiveness is my soft place to land.

I know I grumble about early morning seminary and scripture study with the family. Oh, and sometimes prayer too. But it really is such an important part of my day. I know that when I am part of these things the bad influences at school don't seem as hard to deal with. Please don't give up on these habits, even when my attitude leaves a lot to be desired. Completing my Personal Progress program would also be easier if I had your help.

School is hard. Please remember just how hard. There are pressures there that don't seem at all temporary. If I complain a lot about a class, it is probably because I don't understand the material all that well, or I think the teacher is mean, or the kids in the class are really getting under my skin. And if I tell you that a teacher is out to get me, or hates me in particular, it is probably not true. Again, my talk like that is most likely hiding other issues. But if you don't listen to me long enough; yes, even through all my ranting, then you will never learn what is really behind my surface comments.

That friend I casually mentioned 10 times yesterday? He's a boy. And I'm crazy about him. Maybe even in love with him. And while my version of love seems very immature and even silly to you, to me it is very real. Don't you dare belittle or tease me about it. The same goes for when this same boy breaks my heart. One day I will see it as a learning experience; right now it just hurts. Validate me.

If I have a regular boyfriend, there is no doubt that we are kissing more than would make you comfortable. If I don't have a boyfriend, there is still somebody I have my eye on. Maybe more than one somebodies. My hormones are powerful. If you haven't talked with me candidly about sex then it isn't too late. Even if I roll my eyes a lot and try to tell you that I know all that stuff, I'm just blowing smoke. I need to know what you think about sex, and how intimacy between men and women fits into our belief system.

When I say candidly, I need to know more than just the biology and the mechanics. We watched THAT movie in 7th grade health. I need you to tell me what effect my specific actions will have on the young men I know--whether I'm trying to get away with a two-piece swimming suit at the water slide, or sitting on a boyfriend's lap, or French kissing . . . . if I haven't exhibited some of these behaviors yet, well, my friends probably have. And if not my friends then kids at school. Please help me to know how boys tick so that I can be careful.

At the same time, don't reinforce my negative stereotypes about boys. Don't teach me to manipulate and tease. Don't use dad as an ATM to support a shopping habit. Don't give my dad the silent treatment when you are angry. When you act that way, you are teaching me things about relationships that will not help me to create a pleasant home-life, and they will undermine my respect for men. It might even effect my desire to get married.

I know that I'm busy, but it is really good for me to have a set of expectations at home regarding my help. What I don't realize now is that when I am one day married with a husband and children of my own, much of my time each day will be consumed with the business of running a household. Before I leave home, I should know how to budget my money, change a diaper, clean a bathroom, wash and iron clothes, and how to cook some basic meals. To say the least.

As you teach me these things, your attitude towards these tasks will largely determine how happy I am doing similar things. If you treat your work of the home as drudgery, I will either feel the same, or reject my potential as a homemaker all together.

Even as you go about your many and varied household tasks, it is really good for me to see you doing other things as well. It is even good for me to be told that my own agenda needs to be put off because you are doing something else--even if that something else in non-essential. I need to be reminded pretty often that I am part of something greater than myself: a family, and that the needs of the family overshadow the needs of any one person in that family.

Manners are important. Teach me to be gracious, polite and grateful. I know it is a fine line to help me act with dignity while also teaching me to be strong and assertive. But I know you can do it! This is the same balance I see in you and the other women I look up to and respect. To me, the very essence of womanhood is that perfect mix of tough and tender that you seem to have figured out. Help me figure it out too.

I have a lot of friends; perhaps there are times when even you and I are great friends. I hope so. But there are times when I mostly need a mother--even if it means coming down on me in the way my friends never would. I will only have one mother, and you have a short amount of time to get it right. Please love me enough to put limits on my behavior.

Chances are that my friends and I are more ambitious regarding education and careers than the women in your generation were. Bear in mind that very few women have the inclination, let alone the luxury, of staying home with their children full time anymore. If I am ambitious then it greatly increases the chances of me finding a career that is fulfilling and joyful to me.

Having to chose between the many activities that I love will be really good for me. And it won't hurt me to have to earn my own money for some of these things either. When I have to start helping pay my way, chances are that I will get a lot more selective about what I participate in. You would be naive to believe me if I tell you that I will "pay you back" after you shell out money for band camp or EFY or another cheerleading uniform.

It doesn't matter how compelling my arguments are, there is no reason for me to have exclusive and unlimited use of a cell phone all the time, particularly if that phone has Internet on it. If I have one on my person, then I can almost guarantee I am abusing it. I'm texting at church and in class, I'm talking on it when I'm supposed to be studying; I've gotten inappropriate pictures, jokes and websites sent to me, even when I haven't asked for them. My generation's use of technology is teaching me that every random thought that pops into my head is worth sharing. My emotional status updates are seldom appropriate; it is up to you to follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Myspace to help me keep my public behavior in check.

I will resist you at nearly every turn, but please don't give up on me. My potential is beyond what either of us see.


Your Daughter

Feel free to add your own PS in the comment section.


Jenny said...

PS. Thanks for spending time ALONE with me. I know you have to divide your time with many other people and so many other commitments and responsibilities... even though you were tired and probably would rather have been sitting at home. It made me feel pretty great.

Jenny said...

oh--and happy mother's day STM--YOU're pretty great.

誠侑 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mstanger said...

Nice. Do you plan on doing one for Fathers in about a month?

Science Teacher Mommy said...

That isn't a half bad idea, Mike.

mstanger said...

I try to limit myself to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 bad ideas.

Angela Noelle of Striking Keys said...

Your scripture study theme/purpose/angle is awesome. Consider it stolen.