Yesterday was a big day for me. Tough conversations with my 17 year old daughter about her future and then a lightbulb moment after watching the infamous Anh Do live on stage.
Here’s a synopsis of what happened:
It was around 4pm, the afternoon light was streaming through the window and we all gathered eagerly to have a chat about our daughter’s future. Us as the wise, experienced and fully ‘woke’ parents that we are, and our daughter waiting excitedly to hear what nuggets of gold we had to shower upon her, hanging on our every word. Wait, back up, sorry, that’s what I ‘imagined’ happening. This is how it actually went down:
It was awkward. She clearly didn't want to be there and I could see her smouldering with resentment. So, being the emotionally switched on adults that we are, we decided to ignore all the signs and carried on regardless - walking straight into the lion’s den.
What we thought to be a supportive and caring conversation, was perceived very differently by our daughter and she had no problem letting us know!
She was very clear about not having the answers and that she’d let us know when she knew and then she will ask for our input but until then, could we please stop putting unnecessary pressure on her. She doesn't like being told what to do (show me a teenager who does!) because it just makes her want to do the opposite and has no idea what she wants to do which added to her own frustration.
Her dad and I just listened - I felt the hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up as I let myself get more and more triggered. The irony was that in the morning, I'd role played the whole thing with a girlfriend and then talked her dad through how he should approach it, convinced that he’d be the one to undo everything! When in reality, I ended up being the one acting like a sulky, surly teenager because I felt unfairly accused of putting pressure on her.
We wrapped it up about as awkwardly as it had begun and everyone headed off their separate ways.
I had a show to go to - Anh Do, The Happiest Refugee Live!
Slight digression, but if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do when the opportunity arises!
It was a melting pot and perfect balance between laughter and genuinely heartbreaking stories of his life. His ability to stay positive and happy throughout the trials and tribulations that he faced was extraordinary, as was his relationship with his mother. For someone who’s had to deal with what he’s had to deal with in life, he has had some extraordinary wins. An award winning book (he pretty much taught himself to read). The highly acclaimed People’s Choice for the Archibald Prize and many, many more fabulous accolades and adventures. And do you know what he put it all down to? Something his dad always said to him: “Give it a crack and see what happens” and a deep rooted belief in the sentiment; ‘give yourself permission to fail’.
I left the theatre last night with the realisation that even though I wasn’t putting pressure on my daughter to succeed, telling her regularly that I didn’t care about her grades, just that she was happy and doing her best. That was still pressure. What I really needed to tell her, was that it doesn’t matter what I (or her dad think), what’s important is that she ‘gives HERSELF permission to fail’. (Which in turn, will automatically exponentially increase her chances of success). Go figure!