Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A cheer (and a tear) for Junior Year

Nobody told me that when your teenager gets to a certain age, in this case, 16 1/2, you actually don't see them much anymore. And so we enter the fall of Earbaby's junior year with me seeing her about three times a week. The rest of the days she's just the stranger sleeping (or eating, texting, Netflixing) in the bedroom next door.

EB jumped into the penultimate year of her high school career with both feet -- as always. Cheerleader camp started two weeks before school began with early morning practice, just in time to finish off the final physical therapy sessions for her almost-completely healed knee. The reemergence of the two dance schools part of her schedule came right on the heels of her first week of school and between the four dance classes (not including the younger class she helps in), three two-hour cheer practices a week and Friday football games, well, let's just say I can legitimately argue that I keep all her pictures around just so I'd be able to recognize her on the few occasions we do cross paths.

As for school, and the work that comes with it, that's again a bit of mixed bag. She loves her classes and teachers this year, all great courses and interesting subjects. She still has the shakiness of test anxiety, for which we're always looking for solutions. The PSAT will be coming up soon to prepare her class for the newly remixed and remastered SATs, but there are no AP courses taken this year, which caused her so much angst in the grades department.

And most of the time she's in a fairly good mood (except of course when she's tired, hungry, grumpy, disgusted, bored or sleep-deprived). We see each other Saturdays, Mondays and Tuesdays when I take her to dance class, but I see her for about 10 minutes on Sundays when she emerges from her cave (sometimes with a friend who slept over) to raid the refrigerator, or take a shower and then return to her lair. After Tuesday, my next chance to see her will come Saturday mornings again. Because she comes home from cheer after I've left for work, we've taken to texting to communicate, something I've always hated.

Then there's the social life. Earbaby has been traveling around this city on a 24/7 school bus pass for a few years now, and is still tickled by friends who don't know how to get around unless their parents drive them. Sometimes she'll ask to be dropped off at the station, and late nights always merit a pickup at the station from her dad, but I'm not sure when the tables turned from her asking permission to go out to her telling us she's going out to dinner and/or a movie with friends (and yes, she will need money). Our reply is usually don't stay out too late, don't hang around unsavory parts of the city, the usual who, what, where questions, and of course, keep in touch, answer your texts.

I don't know how indulgent we are. I seem to remember a lot of freedom from my parents around my junior year (probably even more, because I had my driver's license by then). And there was no constant contact from cellphones. Your parents knew where you said you were going, knew your friends, and trusted you to "make good choices."

But as EB heads out some Saturday nights (or goes out with friends after the Friday football games), I sometimes listen to more helicoptery parents and wonder if I'm just being lazy. On the other hand, she'll never know how to make good choices if she never gets any practice. So far, so good.

Last weekend assured me she is on the right path. After first thinking she would spend a rare Saturday night at home, she changed her mind and decided to meet friends for dinner. Granted this annoyed her dad, but off she went downtown. She and her friends found themselves right smack in the middle of Hempfest! Of course, she's no Janie-come-lately -- she immediately recognized the smell of the weed. Her closest friends are all straight-arrow kids, so they beat it out of there. I know they did, because she told me about it. I didn't know it was Hempfest weekend either, or I would have dropped her elsewhere.

These days are a little bittersweet as the baby bird flies farther away from the nest in preparation for living on her own. When did my baby blob become a sweet, sensitive young lady (except when she's tired, hungry, grumpy, etc.)? We're still trying to figure out what kind of parenting is best for someone on the cusp of adulthood. We've got the roots and wings philosophy down pat.

I guess I just kind of wish those strong young wings wouldn't take off quite so often. Not yet, anyway. Not yet.

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