For those of you who are experienced parents, bear with me. I’m new to handling a tween. It isn’t a lot of fun these days; there’s a lot of pushback from my daughter on the most mundane and piddling little things around here. The angst also gets in the way of my (and everybody else’s) functionality. Thankfully, there’s still two weeks of school left; maybe I’ll be able to discover how to manage my relationship with my daughter a little better, to not react to her shock-value-type commentary and outbursts.
My logical mind knows what’s going on with her. She’s growing up. Hormonal surges, that kind of thing. It is preteen sturm und drang, the likes of which could compete with Hurricane Katrina-type force.
The bomb my daughter dropped on me yesterday was that she’s decided to become an athiest. She told me, as we had just come home from Mass, where she had had her Rite of Enrollment for the sacrament of Confirmation (she’s to be confirmed next May).
Now, of course, this was done for shock value more than anything else. I got it out of her that the underlying issue was that she didn’t want to go through the Confirmation process. For kids attending public schools (and not Catholic schools), it is a bit of a process. She has to do 20 hours of community service, and write two essays. She can knock all of that out this summer, easily, and she might just have fun doing it, I told her.
“I’m still an athiest,” she reiterated.
OK, I said. How do you know?
“I don’t know,” she said. “All I know is that I pray for stuff, and he doesn’t answer my prayers.”
That took me aback a little. “Well, God answers all prayers,” I told her. “The thing is, He gives us what we need, not what we want. The answer isn’t always what we expect.”
Then that was when she said she didn’t want to go through Confirmation. I figured that was the heart of the problem. “I’m still an athiest,” she said.
“Sage,” I said, “You’re a smart kid. You say you are an athiest, but you can’t tell me anything about why you think this way, or what it means to you, or, anything about a relationship with God. Your Confirmation year is the perfect opportunity for you to find out what all that means. What better opportunity to learn about athiesm, and other beliefs in addition to a relationship with God.”
I think she realized at that moment that the athiest angle backfired. It was a nice try, I have to admit. I don’t think I would have had the nerve to tell my mother that as an excuse to get out of the Confirmation work. Relationships are work, though. She might as well learn that lesson now.
“I’ll talk to you about this in more depth after you’ve actually explored what this means to you. I’ll help you explore your personal relationship with God in any way you want. But you have to do the work of the relationship. You can’t have a relationship with anyone, God or human, without putting in the effort. Also, you cannot claim a belief if you know nothing about it.”
I reminded her of the deal we had just two weeks ago when the Confirmation came up in family discussion: This is her last year of Sunday School. If she gets through the year and decides she’d like to explore other faith options, that’s fine. But she’s not finished with the catechism yet. I reminded her that she needs to make an informed decision about this; and, if when she’s done with Sunday School and she feels the same way, we’ll talk again.
“You need to give this relationship with God a chance. You’d do that for your friends, right?”
More sullen looks, then she stalked off. OK, God, I thought. I don’t think I handled that one so great, because she was upset. She’s still upset. She’s not talking to me. Oh well. This will pass. I did the best I could. Like I said at the top of this article, I’m new to parenting a tween.
I mention all of this because I had plans this weekend to update the book outline, to incorporate the new information I have about Emmett’s work experience in Sterling, Illinois. Obviously, I didn’t get it done. The swirling hormonal preteen angst sucked everyone close by into its vortex, despite best efforts to resist it.
I’m going to hole up into a convenient office to get some work done today, then maybe grab my neighbor down the street. She’s also a writer/researcher; she has teenage boys. She’s missed out on the girl drama, but we both are dealing with teenage angst storms, and we’ve got each other’s backs.
We drink coffee together. We commiserate. We take our angst out on the hiking trails nearby.
Life is good.
My friend has my back.
God has my back, too.