“Anna! I don’t know why you won’t listen to my advice. I am telling you this for your own good. You need to know how to advocate for yourself!” I was getting on her for something inconsequential. Telling her she should do this, she should do that – reciting by heart the common refrain heard around the world in households between mothers and teenage daughters. In response, she picked up the bullet journal she was artfully drawing in as we had been chatting and walked out of the room.
I had just squandered a rare moment when she had sought out my company. Dang it.
Later in the day we learned she had been named Student of the Month at her high school for her class of 658 students. Within a few more emails coming in, she also learned she was invited to apply for induction into National Honor Society and to apply for consideration as a delegate for Girls State.
I excitedly went into her room to cheer with her. She started crying and asked me to leave. I sucked up my deflated disappointment in one swift breath and quietly walked out before she could spy my own tears.
A bit later she was in my doorway. “Mom, I am not mad at you. It has nothing to do with that. It just feels really good to be acknowledged and I was overwhelmed. Dad told me he was proud of me too.” My heart puffed up like a balloon as I pulled her into a big hug.
How in this age of helicoptering parenting and participation trophies did I forget the importance of acknowledging hard work, determination, and grit? In this time of teenagers struggling through a pandemic and dare I say suffering acutely under this dramatic shift in their social spheres, how did I forget their most basic needs would become more pronounced? When was the last time I had told my daughter I was proud of her? How much more often am I found bemoaning something she did or did not do as I feel the race against time to have her prepared to leave my house in just 17 months?
All children, regardless of age, need acknowledgement that who they are is loved and that how they show up in this life matters. I am betting your parents, friends, co-workers, partners, neighbors, and bosses may need it too. In this current world of reduced heart-to-heart connections really seeing someone (despite not physically seeing them) is more meaningful than ever.
I wonder who you may want to acknowledge today?