“Can I watch ‘ Sky Captain’?”
“But it’s a DVD.”
“It’s a good movie.”
A pregnant pause. She’s being stubborn.
“You don’t get to use the cable. You don’t get to use the internet. DVDs are not some magical exception to the rules.”
She failed a class her Freshman year, almost failed another. In past years she has been a top student. So her dad and I grounded her for the Summer. She’d already been without internet for months following a poor midterm showing. Oh, and the creep she’d been exchanging explicit texts with.
She wanted to get her driver’s permit this Spring but, aside from the grades, we didn’t feel sure we could trust her to be responsible out in the world with a motor vehicle. She has an overdeveloped fantasy life, and I’m hopeful a few months of non-fiction reading and not being able to escape into the TV will activate something in her brain.
And, I’ll admit, amused at the old-fashioned lifestyle she’s living. These kids have too damn many screens.
But I also relate heavily to her predicament. I’ve tried to let her know that, I’ve said how overwhelming it is to suddenly have to decide what you want to do with your life when, just a few short months ago, you were only responsible for doing a page of homework here and there. She’s got an artistic bent but lacks the drive to really excel at anything.
She wants to be a singer. Okay, I said, let’s learn to read music.
She wants to be a performer, but her dad and grandmother have told her she can’t. Which makes me sad, we live half an hour from a major performing arts hub. By which I mean a tourist trap with a shit-ton of dinner theater and musical stages. You want to get her to buckle down and choose a practical profession? Let her see how much work performing professionally really is.
Otherwise, I just hope she gets her act together earlier than I did, in my mid-20s. I’m not just making stuff up, I know of what I speak when I tell her to just take care of business and stop spending her energy on imaginary boyfriends.
But you can only do so much.
This girl has been abandoned by her biodad, her mother is off in a tiny town an hour from here supposedly getting sober (again) and she lives with us because my husband was married to her mother for about a decade. He’s the only Dad she’s ever known but her mother never did let him legally adopt her. That woman could still challenge the current situation and we all know it.
So our girl has a little more to worry about than your average kid. The urge toward escapism is understandable. She meets her new therapist Thursday and claims to have some understanding that her current coping mechanisms are unsustainable.
We as parents feel the pressure along with our kids, maybe more keenly because we can’t help but remember our own youth and how it might have gone better. We know how quickly the time passes. I hope we can help our Sophomore make better decisions this coming year, but it’s up to her to make it happen. Letting them make their own mistakes may be the hardest part of being a parent.