A daughter grows up

I am always a bit leery to write about my family members. I am afraid that I will say something in my blog that will inadvertently hurt them. Therefore, when I do write about my family I am circumspect. Still, they are my family so they cannot help but loom large in my thoughts. So occasionally, I will invite the reader to get some insight into my family. Today, I give you a picture of my daughter on the cusp of adulthood.

In fact, on occasion, I have said things in my blog about my daughter Rosie, but little of it was meaningful. I described her as a polysexual (a word I think that I coined) a couple years back. She was just fourteen when she announced to my wife and I in a matter of fact tone that she was attracted to both genders. I also once pondered mistakes I made parenting her. Other than these instances, I have written little in my blog that gives you a sense of the wonderful young woman that is my daughter.

Now Rosie is sixteen and a junior in high school. She is taller than her mother. Prior to adolescence, she struck her two introverted parents as inexplicably popular. Her many girlfriends were a constant presence in our lives. It seemed like almost every other weekend she was at a sleepover at some girl’s house. She rarely needed or bothered to call up her friends. They sought her out. She was not popular in the traditional sense of the word. There are no yearbooks in grade school, but if there were, I doubt her class would have been voted her most popular. Rosie is the antithesis of perky. For whatever reason though, she effortlessly attracted a devoted group of followers. Without intending to be the leader, she became one to her friends. She carried with her both imagination and an intangible energy. Girls who wanted more of these traits in themselves were drawn to her like moths to a flame.

Adolescence found Rosie getting in touch with her introvert. She still has good friends, but they are a smaller and more eclectic set. They meet mostly online now. Her friends include a few really unusual, somewhat bizarre, quite skewed (but not dysfunctional) harmless young men. You might say they are the out crowd at school. She still claims to be a bisexual, but seems to be in no hurry to try sex, drugs, cigarettes or, for that matter, heavy romantic relationships. She is comfortable with whom she is, and who she is does not resemble many of her peers.

I still think she attracts a certain kind of person who is also turned off by peer pressure, but not as comfortable in openly expressing it. When they see her, they see something of a model on how they would like to be: a genuine and unapologetic non-conformanist. She has her own tastes in clothes and music and they rarely intersect with those of her peers. She likes some popular music, but her favorite music tends to be rather obscure stuff she found on the Internet. She is comfortable with less trendy forms of music, including musicals, folk, jazz and classical music.

There are times I think she might be a Goth, since she is usually dressed in black. However, she is not the type to dye her hair jet black. She wears no makeup. She makes sporadic efforts to clear up her acne, but usually she is indifferent to it. Adolescence is usually a time of pulling a way. Yet at this stage in her life, she seems comfortable emulating her geeky parents. For both my wife and I are comfortable in our own non-conformanist skins. For her a pleasant day is spent in the sanctuary of her bedroom. Half of the time, she is chatting online with friends. The other half of the time, she is writing. For like her mother and I, she seems to have the gift of words. For now, she writes mostly fan fiction. She even has her own web site full of fan fiction that she has written. Her friends are some of her more enthusiastic readers. They participate by providing artwork for her web site, and hang on her latest chapters.

For most of her life, academics have been her biggest challenge. It was not that she was stupid. At every conference we had with her teachers she was singled out as one of the smartest and most interesting children in the class. Rather, her challenges were organization and being able to focus. We tried every approach we could think of and nothing worked. For a while there I had regular nightmares of her spending her adult years placing smiley face stickers on customers entering the local Wal-Mart.

Now, at long last, she is cruising academically. We are not entirely sure what did the trick. It could be that she finally realized that independent living was right around the corner. We do know that things started improving shortly after we found Peggy, her life coach. Perhaps parental guidance can be counterproductive at a certain age. Her coach works as a partner, rather than as an authority. Just last week we reached a welcome milestone. Her latest report card arrived with all A’s and B’s on it. I used to dread the arrival of her report card. Now it is almost a happy experience.

At sixteen, it is too much to expect her to figure out what she wants to do with her adult life. She is definitely thinking about it though. For now, her goal is to study overseas. Since she is one of the top French students in her school, she would prefer to study in France. To help her discover if this is something she really wants to do, we are planning to take a trip to Paris this summer. One thing is for sure: she is not terribly enamored with her own country. She talks about giving up her American citizenship for French citizenship. I have to remind her that things are not that wonderful in France. Young adults have been rioting in the streets. Youth unemployment hovers around 20%. Then there are the sectarian problems with Muslims and other immigrants who live what amounts to permanent second-class citizenship. Nor, if truth were told, would I be that happy to have her across the pond permanently. She is after all our only child. We know she has to leave home sometime. We are hoping if she must go to college in a foreign country that she will pick Canada. Quebec might be a more pragmatic (and less expensive) place for her to get a degree.

She has a hazy idea of a career in translation. She wants to see the world, and being multilingual might provide the opportunities she wants. Her choice strikes me as reasonable. Moreover, it is likely to pay much better than being a Wal-Mart greeter. Still, I wonder. I suspect that her real calling will be in the arts. Someone who can write so beautifully at age sixteen is likely to want to continue it as a passion into adulthood too. She has done her share of Community Theater, and has sung in a few chorales. For much of her life, I heard more singing from her than I heard from most birds. It is hard to imagine that side of her will disappear in adulthood.

I expect that she will experience some significant potholes as she transitions to adulthood. Her remaining time with us is now rather short. There is still so much to teach her. She needs many more driving lessons. I need to teach her money management skills, so she does not spend her adulthood in debt like so many these days. She needs a job beyond babysitting to see how the world of employment actually works. In addition, she needs to have some understanding of how expensive it is to live in our modern world. Perhaps this will encourage her to pick a profession that pays more than a bare living wage.

She enters her adulthood in a vastly more complex world than the one I knew at her age. There are so many more choices and as a consequence, many more potential pitfalls. If she has floundered in some ways until recently, it was probably simply because it is so tough to master all the necessary skills to succeed. She is now making sound choices. Now she carries a pervasive sense of inner confidence. Moreover, she seems to be a genuinely happy young woman. Rather than being rebellious, she is sweet and affectionate. She may be happy holed up in her room, but when she is out of it, she talks to us freely about her life. She remains as affectionate as a young woman as she was as a child. We can still hug each other freely. She radiates honesty and projects a sense of inner harmony.

She will still need some guidance, and she still is a bit nervous holding the tiller of her own life. She is nearing the edge of the harbor where she has spent her life. She has navigated in the shoals long enough. She is almost ready to handle the breakers.

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