Surprising Steps Ahead
I wish I could compile how many times I've started an entry with the statement, "It's funny the things that surprise you." The truth is, my daughter surprises me every single day. After all this time, there are certainly things that should surprise me, but I also feel as if there are many things that shouldn't -- in some respects, I feel as if I should know my daughter better than I do, that I should expect more out of her, that I should push her to do more, to work harder, to try and to fail more. At the same time, I can't help but living in this constant state of gratitude that she's come as far as she has, that she does as much as she has, that she is the amazing woman that she's quickly becoming.
I was watching her walk down the street after getting of the bus with a friend. I was watching her make polite conversation. I was watching them both walking in step, like any pair of teenagers walking away from a bus stop together. When I asked her about it later, she told me that they talked about how their days went, how they were both doing. Such a simple, basic conversation that has nothing to do with Minecraft or Pokemon or random horror movies from the eighties -- just a standard, small-talk conversation. It amazes me that A. can do that, that she knows how, and that she uses that form of conversation appropriately -- that she knows enough about social adaptation to be able to pull that off.
Which, of course, leads me to believe that if I just increased my expectations of her at home -- that she'd occasionally have to engage in conversations on topics she's not interested in, that she'd sometimes need to stop shouting at the top of her lungs when speaking with people -- that she'd be able to do it with little problem. I recognize that this is something I need to start doing, however little I like the idea.
Still, I recognize the pattern. It's an easy one to recognize, after all this time. I push a little, I wait, I let her adjust, I let her get comfortable, and then I push a little more. It's the rhythm I've always used in parenting, the way we've always managed to go a couple of steps forward without taking too many steps back. Still, there's always a bit of hesitation, just because I know how hard those first steps often are to take. Sometimes, I even drag my feet a bit.
But we're moving forward, all the same. We've recently replaced a lot of A.'s preferred name-brand food with cheaper, healthier options. We've started actually putting items on A.'s plate every night that she has to try that are NOT her preferred chicken nuggets/cheese pizza/peanut-butter-and-jelly-but-only-that-special-kind-of-jelly menu. We've added a couple of small things to her daily chore list. She's still going to group therapy and to church despite the fact she really doesn't enjoy either of those activities. We tackle a small piece of homework every day. And we're working on small lessons in accountability, honesty, and consideration along the way.
I know it won't be an easy road. I know there will always be the inevitable bad days. I know that every time I push forward, I always meet with at least a little resistance. What I can do is move forward mindfully, compassionately, with a loving heart, hopefully inspiring and modeling that same kind of mindfulness, compassion, and love for my own daughter. Even if she doesn't understand it now, even if she doesn't quite "get it" now, there are always more steps to take, and there is a long road ahead. One day, I can hope, this will all register, and she will acquire even more lessons in how to navigate this crazy life. And I will say then, as I've been saying all this time, "It's funny the things that surprise you."