I've spent a lot of hours with my teenage daughters this week and it got me to thinking about my own teenage years. What was I like? I'm very sure I was the dependable type. I'm sure I was quiet and polite and helpful. I know for a fact that I was organized to the point of being obsessive. If that condition had been familiar in the 70's I think I would have been diagnosed. Yes, I would spend hours in my room redecorating, moving furniture around, cleaning and organizing. Control issues anyone? My mother thought I was a nut. I did not make stellar grades, but they were good enough. I'm also confidant that I did nothing to stand out. I did not want to be noticed - not even in a good way. I guess I could have made an A in Algebra but then I would be recognized and that made me quite uncomfortable. I was content with a B which was the average grade. I was content with being average.
One of my daughters is painfully shy. She rarely makes contact with a new person. She does not take the initiative to introduce herself. She would never in a million years join a new group of peers. I don't think she has a friend. She has acquaintances - girls that she is in class alongside that she interacts with. But they don't really qualify as friends. She stays firmly embedded in the shadows. She feels comfortable there. Her grades in school are excellent. She is not irresponsible or disruptive. I have no worries about her behavior. So what am I worried about? I don't know if "worried" is the right word, but today I found myself almost frustrated with it.
How do you help someone with confidence? How can I help her see her own potential? How can I help her feel good about herself?
Like an addict, part of me feels like she has to want to help herself. But when I think back on my teenage years I now wish I had had some help from my mother. (let's not get into that barrel of monkeys. I'll never get back on the subject)
I do not want to call attention to something that she is already painfully aware. So I find myself secretly changing or adding to her home life .Case in point: her weight. I'm the one who buys the food, prepares the food, presents the food. So I quit buying sugary carbonated drinks, Little Debbie snacks, processed meats, etc. I load the refrigerator up with fresh fruits and vegetables. I have been preparing more and more vegetarian meals at home.
Her appearance: I find myself buying little things for her like hair accessories, nail polish, bracelets (the fun kind, not the "real" kind), lip gloss. I call them "treats". She places the treats on her nightstand and there they stay.
I don't want her to be anybody but herself so please don't think I'm trying to change her. That is not my goal. Instead I want her to be happy, confident, assured, well adjusted, interested in something. Will she one day look back on her teenage years and say, "Why didn't you help me?"
I remind myself that as she matures she will find her way. I don't want to be a stumbling block.