Preparing girls for life

Emerson’s 11th birthday is right around the corner, so I spent this holiday weekend laboring lovingly over her birthday scrapbook while she and Ella were visiting with Brian. As I sentimentally organized piles of pictures from the last year, I couldn’t help but marvel at how much my “baby” has grown.

8-20 Page 4A.inddThe tallest girl among her peers, we are no longer able to shop in the kids’ department, which presents challenges, as I don’t want my 11-year-old looking like an 18-year-old. Em is in the fifth grade and her last year at Forest Acres Elementary; then she will enter the unchartered territory of Gettys Middle School.

I like to have ambient noise in the background while I work on projects. Lifetime provided both noise and an educational experience Sunday afternoon as I scrapbooked memories of the last year. In Sunday’s Lifetime lineup was a movie called “The Choking Game.” While I didn’t focus my attention on the movie, I heard and saw enough to wonder if this is another thing I need to add to my mental checklist of things to worry about when I have teenage daughters.

Apparently it is “cool” for kids to choke themselves or one another to the point of passing out because they have cut the supply of oxygen off to their brains. Geez! Who comes up with this stuff? I have fainted maybe twice in my life, and neither experience was remotely pleasurable. I cannot imagine purposefully cutting off the flow of cell-nourishing oxygen to the grey matter on which I depend for, well, basically, everything life-sustaining.

Like any reasonable parent, I worry about what the teenage years are going to bring, but I’m not terrified.

Being a church-goer with faith in Christ doesn’t make one perfect (some of the shenanigans my church youth group friends and I engaged in were hair-curling), but it does give my daughters a solid foundation on which to stand, and this gives me a peace of heart and mind I cannot put into words. My daughters have a moral compass they can use to navigate their treacherous teenage terrain.

In addition to this, I continually strive to ensure that my girls know my love for them is unconditional. No matter what they say, do or think, I am always, always going to love them. Reminding them of this on a daily basis keeps open between us the door of communication that is essential to raising a healthy teenager. I prefer they get the truth from me than the girls’ room gossip du jour.

Looking through pictures there are moments when I wish I had the power to freeze time, but the cold hard truth is that my little girls are growing up at a much faster rate than I anticipated. Like not having the power to stop time, I am also well aware that I cannot protect my girls from the world, isolating them in a bubble of safety guarded by unicorns and rainbows.

What I can continue to do is love them with every fiber of being; remind them that I am always available to talk; and equip them with the knowledge and tools they will need to be strong, independent, smart, kind and compassionate human beings — even when they are teenagers.