Dear Future Little Friend,
In case I forget to tell you ten years from now, I love you. In case you forget, ten years from now, how “cool” you think I am, let me remind you, you love me. Somewhere, ten years down the unseeable road from now, nothing I do will be “cool.” I will fail to listen to the “cool” radio station, I will own not a single “cool” outfit, and I will most certainly not let you do the things all the other “cool” moms let their kids do.
I’ve no doubt it will even be uncool to use the word “cool.”
So let me tell you, before we launch into the wrestling match that is a mother trying to stuff her teenage daughter back into the daughter’s previously adoring toddler self, this thought that I had today.
We were driving to the zoo, and I had an energizing revelation (or was it simply a rogue jolt of caffeine racing through my veins?) that the teenage struggle against uncool parents has a lot less to do with how uncool the parents may or may not be and more to do with a parent’s inevitable forgetfulness of what it means to be a teenager.
To be a teenager is to have a blank page on which to write one’s life story.
The blank page is thrilling. It is terrifying.
Until now, the page has always contained the black outline of a coloring book’s suggestion. All that’s been required of you is to add color and stay mostly inside the lines.
But a teenager’s page is blank. Without guides. Only horizons.
An adult’s page has been filled in, crossed out, rewritten, erased, written big, written small, with some notes to self scribbled in the margins. We become adults through writing down our life story.
Here’s what actually makes parents of teenagers uncool. We try to nudge you aside from your blank page and write a few lines for you. It’s an innocent enough intent–we’ve done the hard work on our own drafts and simply want to give you a head start on yours. If I do this to you ten years from now, I’m sorry.
I’m actually quite content with the way my life is writing these days. I love my city, my home, my week’s menu, my comforting daily rhythms. I love my future dreams of earning a PhD, of living in France, of becoming a real writer. I love my best friend of a husband and little friend of a daughter. I love the resulting experiences of sucking the marrow out of life. Because of this, I fear I might be tempted to give you a little “life writing” instruction.
Don’t let me scribble on your page.
I want you to have the freedom to write and erase and try again. I want you to face the frustration of the blank page, write in one direction, reverse, and set out on a new course. I want you to write in the margins and see where it takes you. I want you to live, live, live, fully, thoughtfully, prayerfully, intentionally.
So when we get to the juncture ten years from now when you’re rolling your eyes over my radio station selection, I pray I’ll have the grace and wisdom to stick to my course (it’s the radio station I want to have written into my life story after all), and later give way to appreciate your music selection as well. It’s the best way I can think to say I love you.
Oh, and one more thing. Today you told me “Mama’s shoes super cool.” Just for the record. Cause it may be the last time I hear that.