Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Radio Flyers and Roller Coasters

"Leap and the net will appear." - Julia Cameron

It appears the world is becoming marginally more self aware. A recent posting from a Facebook friend shared a photo from Edmonton's Child Magazine showing a Radio Flyer wagon shot from above, with these words superimposed:

"Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It's about hanging on during a very bumpy ride."

The same day before receiving this posting, in her Daily OM blog, Madisyn Taylor's words rang true:

"Trying to maintain control in this life is a bit like trying to maintain control on a roller coaster. The ride has its own logic and is going to go it's own way, regardless of how tightly you grip the bar. There is a thrill and a power in simply surrendering to the ride and fully feeling the ups and downs of it, letting the curves take you rather than fighting them. When you fight the ride, resisting what's happening at every turn, your whole being becomes tense and anxiety is your close companion. When you go with the ride, accepting what you cannot control, freedom and joy will inevitably arise."

So which is the course that parents of addicts, or all parents for that matter, should take? Should we assume a watchful posture over our adolescents, or allow our kids to jubilantly raise hands over heads during the tumultuous roller coaster ride that is junior high, high school and young adulthood?

Are you leaning one way or another? Are you buying in to either philosophy? Might I suggest the overtly politically-correct solution that perhaps a little bit of both might do?

The developing brain [all the way through age 25 by some studies] is a rat's nest of malformed nerve endings and contradictory electrical impulses directed by a developing prefrontal cortex that must make God giggle whenever She thinks about it. It's a little like asking for driving directions in a foreign country! [Wie komme ich zum Myparentdepot?]

A teen is ill equipped to be on his or her own on their roller coaster life. It IS a "bumpy ride."

Throw in a dose of self doubt, I mean ANY self doubt, and a parent's inclination to hold on with them and for them, increases exponentially. 

Like I said, it's a bumpy ride.

It can also be a grand adventure.

Kids today are bombarded with more images, temptations, suggestions and alternatives each day than many of their parents experienced in four years of high school. There is definitely a mandate and a duty for parents to hold on during this "very bumpy ride." There is also wisdom in allowing our teens and young adults to experience their roller coaster, let go of the restraining bar, go weightless a bit and realize if they trust in something, or someone [it can be you, other adults in their lives, that Higher Power, or even … themselves], they might experience the freedom and joy of self actualization.

Like so much of parenting, it is a dance, a juggling act, a leap of faith we take each day, if we are courageous enough. 

Last year I sat with our sixteen year old [son who did not bring me to recovery] in his "Radio Flyer" to discuss his curriculum choices for his next [Junior] year. I held on tightly as I discussed the merits of signing up for another year of the AP English class that was so drastically challenging him his Sophomore year. I of course was loading up my "Ben Franklin close" with more "Pros" than I had populated on the "Cons" side. I did eventually concede many of his misgivings about another year of college-level English during his Junior year of high school. 

We parted, almost amicably, he to make his own best decision outside the little red wagon. The next day I heard the clank-clank-clank of the coaster chain as my wife told me what our son had decided. He would drop the AP English class, add a learning lab but take on new challenges in an Introduction to Engineering class. 

As he progressed through his sophomore year I continued to hear those coaster cars being pulled up the anticipatory incline to the next terrifyingly exhilarating drop - his junior year. I had hope that he would trust the weightless experiences of his next year to be exhilarating, his uphills and downhills equally inspiring. I had hope he would raise his hands high, perhaps for the first time, to experience the ride. 

During that summer, I told my son how proud I was of him that he had made the best-informed decision for himself, and to enjoy his Junior year.

This year I am there for him in a different way. I've joined him in that coaster car to relish the ride, not to hold him down.  No white knuckling allowed. And so far, so good.

 keep coming back