I am blessed to parent two beautiful, talented and smart girls. When my oldest was born, we were in a new city, I was a stay-at-home mom and this baby girl was my world. It felt to me like she was completing all of the baby “milestones” ahead of time. So, I always told my husband (until we would laugh at my confidence in her), “She’s advanced!” She grew to be such a smart girl. She was reading Dr. Seuss books by four-years-old. I had friends compliment me on how smart she is. She’s a real “brainiac,” one would say. “She is going to be at the top of her class.” Teachers always had nothing but good to say about her, they all loved her. She continued to excel in everything she did. She truly had God’s favor on her life. She would always come home with “4’s” or “E’s” (for Excellent) on her report card. She was in the Excel program at her private Christian school and then in the Advanced Placement “Challenge” program once we moved her to public school. She continued in some AP classes in junior high/middle school.
I never felt like I was a “pushy” or overbearing parent, especially in terms of grades and homework. But, let’s admit it. I loved being the parent of such a smart and talented child.
And then, life happened. We had another baby when she was 7-years-old and I grew busier. She had been continuously bullied from 4th grade on. She had bullies all through elementary and junior high. She had some other unfortunate events that took place during those years that sent her on a downward spiral. She began to lack self-esteem and confidence. School began to be more of struggle at times. She lost the desire to go to school and the loss of the desire and excitement to learn. She began to be experience bouts of depression. Then came the panic attacks. We didn’t know what to do. This was not the “vision” or the “dream” we had for our daughter’s life. This was not the top of the class, “A” student, class leader that she once was. This was a struggling teenager who had become someone else. She closed off her emotions, she wouldn’t talk to me or her dad much of the time. She began to spend endless hours alone in her room with the door closed, the lights off and slept all the time. One day I found her in the fetal position, curled up in a ball on the floor of her bathroom sobbing.
I had talked to her about going to the doctor or a counselor and possibly even trying medication. She refused for such a long time. I don’t know if it was shame and embarrassment or what. But, finally, one day she agreed. We saw a medical doctor that would actually consider an anti-depressant / anti-anxiety medication for a teenager (because some wouldn’t agree to it). The doctor suggested we treat this holistically: deal with every aspect of her well-being (spiritual, emotional, physical and mental). She was put on medication, she began to see a professional counselor, we moved her to a new school in a different school district. Eventually she began to focus on what she was eating and her sleeping habits.
At the same time we were dealing with our oldest daughter’s “issues,” our youngest began to have severe stomach issues. I had to take her to the doctor, allergists, G.I. specialists. She was missing so much school.
Then, one day I got a call from my oldest’s school informing me she was flunking a class (or two, I can’t even remember now, it is all sort of a blur). Then, seriously moments later I got notice my youngest would not be allowed back at her school because she had missed too many days. To top of that crappy moment in life, my friend unknowingly came up to me and began to boast about how well her children were doing. She told me her children just got their report cards and were getting straight A’s, one was on the honor roll or in National Honor’s Society. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.
Shortly after, I gave my notice at work. I knew I HAD to focus primarily on my children. Our lives had become too complicated and too rushed.
Slowly, but surely things began to improve for both of our girls, but especially our oldest. She found a new joy in choir and then tried out for and made show choir. This new passion gave her a new desire and drive to be at school and to more than function on a daily basis. There were set backs here and there. We had to have her medication changed at one point. Her counselor moved, so she had to basically start over with another one (that has been a total and complete blessing). She still got overwhelmed with school work, so eventually we were able to get her on a 504 plan. (Her school, counselors, teachers have been wonderfully helpful and usually very patient and understanding 🙂
We now have a daughter that will sit and talk with us. Sometimes for hours. She opens up about her life, her struggles, her fears and her dreams and desires for the future. She has started volunteering at our church, even going on a missions trip to Mexico. Seeing others who weren’t having their basic needs being met was an eye opener. Her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. She is truly the strongest, bravest person I know. She is not ashamed of her “diagnosis.” She has seen it as an opportunity to empathize with others. She still has such high standards and expectations for herself. But, she is also honest with herself.
As for grades. We care, but we don’t. We encourage her to do HER best. We encourage her to use the gift that God has given her and to follow her passions. Right now, she loves performing. She was just part of a wonderful high school musical production that she was GREAT in!! While watching her, it was like I was watching someone else. Maybe more like a friend who I was proud of. It sort of felt like an out-of-body experience at times. I know part of this was because years ago, I truly had to fully surrender and give her to God. I couldn’t hold on so tight anymore. I had to let her slowly start letting her go.
As the last show came to an end on Sunday night and then Monday morning I woke up and realized my baby was now 17-years-old…I became emotional. I just kept thinking, “She is growing into such a beautiful, talented, smart, funny and wonderful young lady.” She has actually exceeded any expectations I ever had of her. I could not have dreamed this. My shy (but yes, smart) girl who was at time an introverted, then stressed, panicked, fearful, and depressed young person who could not get out of bed to go to school, was soaring on stage as one of the leads in a high school musical. What?!?
I’m sure life will continue to throw us curveballs from time to time. But, I know we can handle whatever is thrown at us. I have truly surrendered any of my dreams, expectations or desires for her life and have tried to be there as a support and advocate. She’s even letting me slowly let go of those reigns. Which is hard!
Now, I just try to be there for her. When she wants to talk or vent, I try to listen (and shut my mouth, which is hard). I of course give advice or the wisdom I can give when I feel like it’s needed. Having a supportive, wonderful husband and father to my girls who is my total partner in this adventure is a blessing that I cannot even express in words.
So, when the report cards get ready to come out (once again), we just focus on areas that can be improved, but really continue to focus on the future, what is on her heart for her future. Life is crazy. To think that I would be excited with B- or or okay with some C+ grades is almost laughable to me. But, I just see a happy, healthy girl and think, “What else can a mom hope for?”