A message for all those who have teenage daughters.

We went to see Juno last week.
It’s a story about a 16 year-old girl, Juno, who gets pregnant, and her journey through the pregnancy and birth and beyond. What’s different about this version of an old story is the comedy, “Yeah, I’m a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale.”

It begins with Juno drinking a quart of Sunny D in preparation for her 3rd pregnancy test of the day. All the tests were performed on site in the ‘restroom’ of a grocery shop, with a lot of input from the shopkeeper. “You better pay for that pee-stick when you’re done with it. Don’t think it’s yours just because you marked it with your urine!”

Juno is different. She doesn’t fit the norm and neither does the boy she picks to ‘experiment’ with. “As far as boyfriends go, Paulie Bleeker is totally boss. He is the cheese to my macaroni.”

I loved her Dad – there’s a scene where he and Juno’s step-mum are alone together having just been told by Juno that she’s pregnant. They’re in shock and the step-mum says something like “Did you see that coming when she said she had something to tell us?” and the Dad says “Yeah, but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.”.
Please don’t tell my offspring but I’ve had thoughts like these. Where the one thing you feared was true became the worst possible outcome and you choose a “better” option. But if sanity had been around on that day there’s no way you’d ever, ever want that “better” option.

It’s a love story. A geeky looking boy, Paulie, in the light of Juno’s love becomes a really lovely guy who, although he wears awful running shorts, steps up to supports Juno when she needs him. “Juno: I think I’m, like, in love with you. Paulie: You mean as friends? Juno: No, I mean, like, for real. ‘Cause you’re, like, the coolest person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try, you know… Paulie: I try really hard, actually. ”

This is a movie with a message for all those who have teenage daughters – they’ll be fine. And, for all those who have teenage sons – they’ll be fine. And for all those who are teenagers – you are fine. And for all those who were teenagers – it turned out fine, didn’t it?

Talking to a friend last weekend as we walked in beautiful sunshine along a path called the Cliff Walk helped me see this. My friend and her husband had spent many sleepless nights wondering what they were going to do for their teenage daughter who was failing to succeed. And guess what? Now ten years later all is fine! It didn’t take ten years for it to be fine, but maybe it takes a long time before we look back. She’s successful in a way that the parents could not have foreseen.

Sometimes sleep is all you can do, because sleepless nights help no one!

Sometimes we get involved in the business of our ‘children’ when all they need is an interested observer with lots of money (not really!) and an ability to listen.

In the recent past as an adult I have begun to do the things that were too fearful to consider at the normal age. For instance, 2 years ago I learned to swim. Now, we’re not talking about the graceful art of gliding through the water. This was learning to be comfortable in water and move through that water anyway I could, except walking. I learned at my own pace, I pacing myself for about 10 years. I had got to the point of holding the bar and putting my face in the water. Letting go of that bar was impossible. If I let go of that bar then I would be lost, like Alice down the rabbit hole. I was holding tight to past experiences in water.

Like the time I went to swimming lessons in the next town and as a good girl put my face in the water when the instructor told me, but somehow the message to hold my breath never got through and I took in water. Then on school tour where I felt so comfortable with my friends that I jumped into the pool with them and couldn’t stop choking up water. And again when my children were small and we went to a water park and I decided it was time to be brave and risk the big slide. Halfway down I decided this wasn’t such a good idea and if there had been a way I would have jumped over the side rather than go into the water. There was no way, it ended with choking on water again.

But something about the water kept calling me back.

I was in the middle of swimming lessons again when I attended a great workshop. There’s an exercise on the last day about doing something you want to do in the next three months. My choice was swimming. Within three months I was floating with my hands off the bar and my feet off the ground, I had sourced a one-to-one swimming teacher and I had started my learning with purpose. And something I didn’t expect – I loved the water. When I was floating and eventually doing a crawl I felt like I was flying.

Now I’ve taken up singing lessons…..

As an adult I don’t even consider that someone will be pushing me to keep going because they think it’s important. Or that someone will be disappointed if I give up. I go at it at my own pace. At my own pace something else comes to play, and I play with that. The joy of the task at hand is lovely.

Getting a good leaving cert, or a distinction in music exams, or a championship medal are types of success, but there are many more, which one will you be thinking about in your death bed?
Sometimes our kids mistake our interest in getting the best for them as the goal they must achieve, as the one way they must go, as the only option to be in this world.
Sometimes we mistake our experience as the truth, the only truth, the only way. Sometimes the truth is invisible to us and only visible to those who are involved and have to step up to meet it.

Ok, maybe learning to swim did take me a long time, but I had the time…… What’s the hurry?

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