Essentially, we get one chance to get it right.
We had a vague idea that parenting a teenager would be difficult, but I have to tell you guys.... I had no idea it would be this hard. Eric & I feel like we are just barely keeping the delicate scale of raising a teen aged daughter, balanced.
We are attempting to instill adventure, humility, grace, and determination into our daughter's spirit, while allowing dynamics such as mean girls, attitude, middle school drama, and disappointment into her world so that she grows up to be "well-balanced." Except that, I'm wondering if well-balanced even actually exists. We are constantly dodging hormones and attitude, while still allowing her to feel and express the emotions she feels, all while reminding her of her place in this world (i.e remember who you're talking too, kiddo!).
As parents, we have to figure out when to allow her to figure things out on her own, and when to step in and teach her; when to let her fail, and when to help. Eric and I have to know when a situation, although maybe tough or ugly, is a situation that will help her understand the world around her and feed the compassionate heart that God gave her, or when to absorb that onto ourselves so that she is protected, but still do that in a way where she isn't sheltered too much.
You could sum up that entire last paragraph in one word: impossible.
I make no apologies for being absolutely obsessed with my daughter. I am overbearing in every sense of the word. I panic when we don't talk/text throughout the day, and I almost never spend time away from her. I have no doubts that the loss of Isabelle's brother only 9 1/2 months before she was born shaped me into the kind of mother I am today. While I wish that I had both of my children on this side of Heaven with me, I wouldn't change a single thing about how I mother my daughter. Ask her how she feels about that aaannnd well... I'm sure she has a laundry list of things she wishes she could change about her obsessive mother. But I don't mind.
So when an opportunity for a young teenager comes up to go to Italy for an entire week without her parents this is when that whole balance thing starts to tip. For Eric, this was a no-brainer, this was the exact sort of opportunity that we desire for our girl so that she learns to embrace the people and world around her with love and tolerance, but for me, this meant that my daughter was going to see world famous historical sites.... and I wasn't going to be there to see her face when she saw them.
(Hold on... give me a second as I get my sobbing under control....oh, her precious lovey face!....) Eric was right though.... we had to let her go, and I had to back off.
Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Her shirt says it all ;o)
Isabelle spent one entire week with her friends (and counselors hired by the government to keep the kids safe and in-line) in Italy! They endured an extremely long bus ride to northern Italy where they got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Florence, spend two entire days at the beach, and hike along the coast of Cinque Terre (pronounced chink-wa tear-ay, I think). Apparently though, an extremely long bus ride with a bus full of kids your own age without a parent in sight is way more fun than an extremely long bus ride with your parents. Who knew?!
I pleaded with Isabelle to take as many pictures as she could during her time in Italy, but the kiddos were advised not to take anything valuable to Cinque Terre because of the high number of aggressive pick-pocketers, so Isabelle decided that she didn't want to risk her camera and opted not to take pictures of what turned out to be her most favorite part of her trip, and her most favorite part of all of Europe. But to be honest, Eric and I couldn't be too disappointed when Isabelle explained why she didn't take her camera every where she went. We were actually very proud of her and felt that delicate scale tip again.
Isabelle said that Cinque Terre is "BEAUTIFUL!" She said that the water was so clear that you could see straight to the bottom and it was by far her most favorite part of her trip. The pathway that they hiked was along the cliffs so she was careful not to slip, although there were parts of the hike that had a guardrail.
Florence was really neat but she liked Pisa better, but both were pretty cool. She made sure to get the picture that I absolutely wanted with her in front of the Leaning Tower even though she "doesn't trust anyone else with my camera." Isabelle thought that seeing the Statue of David in Florence was "awesome!" And she wished that G.G was still alive so that she could tell her all about it. (Oh gosh... I need another second... hold on....). On one of the beach days she got a deep cut on her big toe which worried her and the counselors for a bit because it was bleeding really badly, but by the time she came home a few days later it looked a lot better and didn't even need a band-aid anymore. All of the kids had a curfew each night, but not even a curfew could stop a cabin full of girls from talking & giggling all night long so Isabelle barely slept the entire week.
Statue of David
We were not able to text/talk with our girlie while she was gone because our phones don't work outside of Germany, so when she walked off that bus after one of the best weeks of her life she was a sight for sore eyes! She melted into my arms and told me how exhausted she was and how much she missed us. None of that was within ear shot of her friends so she was extra mushy and lovey.
Eric and I can't be sure that we are nailing this whole parenting thing or not, I guess only time will tell. But I feel like since we have no other children to compare our shortcomings &/or triumphs against, the pressure to get it right on the very first try is overwhelming. But if letting Isabelle go to Italy for summer camp will help her to grow into an adventurous and confident woman who loves the world and all people in it someday, then I'm hopeful we are at least getting one thing right every so often.