In some ways, I’m very lucky:
My oldest daughter has been in difficult ‘teenager’ mode since the day she was born, so I’m actually used to being challenged, argued with, and forced to look at that side of myself I’d rather just ignore.
The whole thing with teenagers, and with kids generally, is that, as Rav Arush explains, they are just coming to teach us something about ourselves. The sooner we work that out, the easier they are to deal with.
Their obvious ‘bad’ is just my secret ‘bad’, and once I realise that, (and I’ve got over my urge to run away from my family), some sort of solution to the problem usually starts to present itself.
So like I was saying, this particular kid is extremely strong-willed, and extremely difficult to control, in any way, shape or form (as well as being very sweet, and a genuinely good, kind, loving person.) Now, I also have those tendencies, but I’ve always seen them as positive: I’m very principled, determined and hard to corrupt. It’s quite a shocker to realise that maybe, at least occasionally, I might also be quite annoying and even (gasp!) plain wrong about things.
Anyway, my daughter is a huge neshama, and I know for sure she’s going to set the world alight at some point, hopefully in a good way.
But in the meantime, I’m having one ‘control’ argument after another, that’s driving me bonkers.
Let’s be clear that I really do know that I’m not in control of anything, and that God is running the world. At the same time, I keep coming up against my daughter’s yetzer hara, that’s insisting on keeping her out with friends until all hours; insisting on going to Netanya for Shabbat to spend time with people I’ve never even spoken to, let alone met or know anything about; insisting that she doesn’t want to come on holiday with us, or insisting that limiting her phone time to only 18 hours a day is completely unreasonable.
On the one hand, I’m trying to nullify my ego and control-freak nature as much as possible, and on the other, she’s only 14 and is occasionally plain wrong about things.
But it’s taking me hours of prayer to work out if I’m arguing ‘my side’ of things for her, or for me. If it’s ultimately for her – then I can stick to my guns and know it’s OK. If it’s for me – then I know it’s not going to end well, and I’m risking alienating her, God forbid.
It’s such a narrow bridge, and I frequently have no idea of where it’s actually taking me.
At its root, I’m struggling with two main issues:
1) To keep seeing the abundant good in my teenager, and to not believe the yetzer’s propaganda that she’s just doing things to be awkward or rebellious.
2) And, to remember that neither she, nor I, are really in control. God’s running the show, God’s setting up all the tests, God’s making me stubborn like a mule, and making her stubborn like a mule.
One of us has to break the deadlock by acting like a grown-up, and as I’m 41, that job seems to be falling to me.
But it’s so flipping hard! It’s so hard to let go of some of my deepest-held principles in order to send my daughter the clear message that SHE is what’s important here. More important than what I want; more important than keeping her elbows covered in 40 degree heat; more important than my daydreams of what she should be, and say, and look like and believe.
I want her to be able to serve God as her, which means letting her discover who that ‘her’ really is.
I was hoping that ‘her’ would like to plait her hair back, wear blue shirts and black loafers, and be enamoured with davening.
But just like that could never work for me, that’s not working for her, either. She has wild hair, a huge personality and a penchant for wearing the biggest earrings I’ve ever seen in my life.
Until I realise, I’m not in control here, and that’s the way God made her.
For His own very good reasons. For the best. Because she’s got her own unique job to do in the world, and blue button-downs simply don’t figure in there.
And who am I to question God?
But Shabbat in Netanya is still out of the question.