The teenage daughter

A few weeks before her 16th birthday, I sensed something was wrong. She went to school and dance class, she did her homework, but somewhere there was a dark cloud hanging over her head. I couldn’t see it, but I could really feel it. Questions like “is there something wrong?” or “how do you feel” are of no help, I know. Still, I suggested them. Telling her afterwards that if she wants to talk, and when she is ready to share it with me, that I am there for her.
Days passed. One Sunday evening, after dinner, her father went to watch sports and the two of us stayed with the last bites. Just when I was about to clear the plates it came. Sadness, confusion, stress, nostalgia, discomfort, pain, even tears. Her stories came to me like foaming waves. There she sat, opposite me, like an Atlas next to a raging sea, carrying her entire world and that of everyone around her on her shoulders. A world that also keep getting bigger and more complicated at her age.
None of what she said was foreign to me. Now that I am an adult I can still be very depressed and find the world around me confusing. But everything hits you so hard and all at once when you are an adolescent. I remember that very well, I could see myself lost and hurting as an adolescent. I looked at her, I listened to her words, I almost felt her pain. It hurt me too, as a parent you want nothing less than to relieve your child, to help, to soothe. What I especially didn’t do is say that everything will be fine and thereby not taken her pain serious. Also I refrained from telling her what to do. When I was her age that didn’t work for either. I took a deep breath in and out. I listened, really listened and most of all I let her talk. Every now and then I asked questions. No advice, no solutions. Juts listen. Try to understand. Give her plenty of space. And she kept talking, and she kept sharing, and with every sentence she uttered, she grew a little closer to herself. And to me.
Being an adolescent is quite a challenge. You try to find your place in the world, you walk the hazy path between childhood and adulthood, you push your own boundaries and you figure out how to live your life. As a parent you can only do one thing now; assist in the transition to the next stage of life. And I believe that you do that mainly by being there for your child. You are and will remain the parent, but you also increasingly become a friend in some ways. Someone who listens, is compassionate and understanding. At least, I do try to be such a parent.
Her stories like waves of sorrow, calmed down. We hugged each other. The dark cloud was gone. And then my daughter told that she felt she can really talk to me, she could spill her guts. Somewhere deep down I was as proud as a parade. When I was her age, upset with myself and the whole world around me, my parents never gave me the space to just spill. Before I even started to tell my story, I was bombarded with solutions and advice and especially the words “we know better, we’ve been there”. As a result, I closed off more and more and the bond between my parents and I became increasingly looser. Later in life, I went into therapy, studied counseling and coaching, and read a lot about psychology and family relationships. I discovered intergenerational patterns that were often passed on very unconsciously. I saw those patterns in the relationship between my mother and my grandmother, for example, and even between my grandmother and her mother. In my journey to personal growth and development I knew one thing I definitely wanted to achieve. Breaking some patterns and getting closer to my daughter.
That Sunday evening, at the end of our conversation, I watched my daughter. Her face lit up again, she moved more freely. As if that enormous burden had slipped off her Atlas shoulders. I had just stood next to her, watching her letting go off her worries and burdens one by one. Some turned out not to be real worries. Others remained unsolved and it will be a while before they unwind. But that night my daughter and I got a lot closer. And although I mainly see her growing before my eyes, I now also saw how much I have grown.

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