Yesterday, between my three classes, I spent a bit of time with my teenage children, and I realized that the words I say have more impact than I imagined.
I'm sure you don't believe me. Teenagers never pay attention to their parents, but two incidents convinced me.
Grace was sitting on the couch looking as glum as I've seen her since she arrived home from college.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know what I'm going to do with my life," she said.
I assured her that going to college was plenty to do at 19.
"Yeah, but you don't like my major," she said.
And I thought back to a few comments I had made, encouraging her to look into science again. When the doctor asked what she planned to do with her multi-lingual studies major, I jumped in and said, "Order coffee in any language."
I suppose these comments are not exactly supportive.
I promised Grace that I would back her decision and that she would find a splendid job with her major.
Then I left to take Tucker to swim practice. He sat in the passenger seat next to me and glanced in the side mirror.
"I'm going to shave tonight," he said rubbing his hand across the beard on his chin and cheeks. His beard filled in pretty well and I had been urging him to trim it. I didn't want it to get long and straggly looking. I didn't respond to his comment about shaving.
"No, I think I'll shave all this," he rubbed his cheeks, "and just leave this," he said pointing to his chin.
I made a snorting derisive noise.
"Oh, fine. Everybody else likes it, Mom. You're the only one who doesn't."
"I didn't say anything," I replied in my defense.
"You made that laughing noise," he said and fell silent.
Since this was the second time that day, I realized that my children were, for some reason, putting a lot of stock in my opinions, as much as they struggled to convince me otherwise.
We drove on in silence and I debated whether I could joke with Tucker to get him out of his anger. Then I decided on a direct approach.
"Tucker, you're right. I should have been supportive of you. You guys are practically adults and I need to stay out of your decisions."
He looked at me, afraid of a trap.
"Seriously," I said. "The same thing happened earlier today with Grace and I just need to keep my opinions to myself."
His shoulders relaxed and we drove the rest of the way to the pool.
Truthfully though, keeping my opinions to myself is not something I'm very good at. I find myself offering my children, and my husband, tips on better or easier ways to do things.
This is going to be an uphill climb.
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