My last post was about how hard it can be to walk your educator talk when it comes to your own child. To summarize, my younger daughter was determined to scale a very high climbing wall while I was struggling to follow my own best advice about giving kids space to try and fail in order to succeed.
This morning, Part 2 of my struggle unfolded, as my older daughter, almost 17, and I were discussing her plans for the day over hastily eaten bananas at the kitchen counter. A newly licensed driver on summer vacation, she had mapped out a schedule for the day that I didn’t love, or even like very much.
Her forecast for the day — driving to a friend’s house, going to the mall, getting lunch at a Chinese restaurant, watching a movie, going out to dinner with a different friend — hit too many nerves for me. Her plan made clear that our many discussions about how to prioritize time and money were not taking root, at least not today. I found myself reminding her about financial literacy and ways that she could demonstrate her developing maturity. Staring at me in the kitchen, one hand on the borrowed car keys and another holding her phone, she was clearly not in the mood for a seminar with me at the moment.
Late to a meeting, I had to go and told her we could talk (hands-free) while both on the road. A few minutes later, headed in opposite directions, our conversation started well enough. We both offered reflections on how we might approach conversations about money, autonomy, and decision making in the future. What was clearly emerging from her perspective was the desire to make these choices, good or bad, for herself. I was doing my level-best to remember how important it is to offer that space and that, at this point, her ability to know when she needs my input best comes from her, not me.
And then: “Mom! Something’s wrong with the car!” I heard a flapping sound and my heart began to race. Out the window went concerns about financial literacy and everything else. “What happened? Are you safe?”
She reported that she had a flat tire and had pulled off the road. She was fine, but she needed help. My help. She wasn’t yet on our AAA account and could not negotiate roadside service without me. I quickly canceled my meeting, turned my car around, and began the drive to where she was, 20 minutes away. Together, we called AAA, talked about the cost of a new tire, and how to better navigate jagged back roads. One big hug and a few reminders I couldn’t keep myself from saying out loud about safety later, I sent her on her way in my car and waited on the service truck.
Alone on the side of the road, the summer cicadas loud in my ears, I breathed deeply. We had navigated a lot in a very short amount of time, and thankfully, everything was ok. We were ok. She was ok. And I was able to give her the help she needed – when she needed it.