Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Daughter Turned Thirteen Yesturday

You don't have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone. ~John Ciardi, Simmons Review, Fall 1962

On a personal note, my daughter just turned thirteen. I know some of you aren't reading my blog to learn about my personal life, but this is a momentous occasion and I really need to take a moment to let the fact sink in. My daughter, my little girl, my once-upon-a-time infant, is now a teenager. A TEENAGER.

The Teenager is a Uniquely Human Phenomenon. (from The New Scientist, written by John Pickrell)

Adolescents are known to be moody, insecure, argumentative, angst-ridden, impulsive, impressionable, reckless and rebellious. Teenagers are also characterised by odd sleeping patterns, awkward growth spurts, bullying, acne and slobbish behaviour. So what could be the possible benefit of the teenage phase?

Most other animals - apes and human ancestors included - skip that stage altogether, developing rapidly from infancy to full adulthood. Humans, in contrast, have a very puzzling four-year gap between sexual maturity and prime reproductive age. Anthropologists disagree on when the teenage phase first evolved, but pinpointing that date could help define its purpose.

Indeed, why do we human beings have to go through this drawn out process of differentiation from our parents? Why do we suddenly go from adorable, happy child, to angry, bitter teen?

My own daughter is still kind, cheerful and friendly, but her mood swings are a bit hard to manage sometimes. She'll be laughing and joking one moment and then throw herself to the floor in tears. I ask, "What's wrong?" She wails, "I don't know!" Then, just as suddenly as the tsunami struck, the tears vanish and she cracks a joke about how the floor smells like farts.

Add to the normal chaos of adolescence, my daughter copes with a disability. As fast as she grows up, she's losing her hearing. She is now labeled "Deaf-Blind." Her peers still like her and call her a friend, but she can't keep up with them anymore. While they are chasing boys and playing sports, my daughter spends recess sitting on the bench, waiting for someone to notice she's alone. It breaks my heart and I have no idea how to solve that problem. I'm afraid I can't do anything at all. This is her challenge, her path, and all I can do is love her and support her while she figures out how to cope with a new, changing body and the same old disability.

Laura Fogg, who is my daughter's teacher as well as a Medusa's Muse author, gave my daughter a beautiful butterfly quilt, complete with red and purple flowers and a large Monarch Butterfly. My daughter spent several minutes exploring the quilt with her fingers, touching the wings of the butterfly and the crinkly petals of the flowers. The quilt reminded me that my daughter has many people who love her and maybe together we can help her get through this tricky time called adolescence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please keep such posts coming. My visually impaired girl just turned 11, and I need to know how to help her cope with her disability. And to find out how other parents cope as well.