Congrats- It’s a (teenage) girl!

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My husband and I have just welcomed home a beautiful girl; she is approximately 59 inches long and weighs about 100 pounds. She sleeps through the night but goes to bed late, and usually her nighttime feedings include Nutella and crackers- that she gets herself. My husband and I sleep right through those late night snacks. And before you ask- not that’s it is any of your business- it was a natural childbirth. It just happens that the childbirth took place nineteen years ago.
Let me back up here. When I was 21 years old, I found myself pregnant and unmarried and scared out of my mind. I struggled to pay my rent, and I was on my third major in college. I couldn’t even choose a course of study, how was I going to choose a diaper? So I put my newborn baby girl up for closed adoption (one in which all the records are sealed shut) and hoped that she would want to meet me when she got older. I then went on with my life, the little girl constantly in the back of my mind. I moved to the San Francisco area, got married, had two more kids and was able to settle on a major and eventually graduate from college.
When Sara turned fourteen, her mother contacted me on Facebook. Even though the adoption records were sealed, her mother had my first name thanks to a little exchange that happened when Sara was a year old. Her adoptive parents reached out through social services to give me pictures of her. I gave Sara a keepsake box that I had painted and decorated and a letter to the parents which I signed “Stacy.” I thought nothing about them having my first name because without the last name, how would they ever find me? (This is pre-internet stalking days.)
Unbeknownst to me, Sara’s mother already had my last name. Because I didn’t name her in the hospital, the hospital called her “Baby Girl Cutty.” A nurse, in either a careless accident or a purposeful blessing, blacked out that name on all but one of the creams that the hospital supplies you with after the birth of a child. So basically a year after Sara was born, her parents had not only my complete name but also an obnoxiously painted keepsake box.
For the past five years, Sara has been in our life. She was so excited to hear that she has siblings, a thrill I wrongly assumed would be short-lived. I compared these first years as a tightrope situation as I was trying to get to know her but also trying to respect her parents. Plus, we lived in two different states so we couldn’t see each other often. It was great to be with her when we could, especially at events like her birthday and her high school graduation.
It was also wonderful to invite her up to San Francisco to see where we live. Sara fell in love with everything about the Bay Area. She often spoke about wanting to move up here and my husband and I would tell her that she should because it is awesome.
Then she did- in the most teenager way of all. She was working full time in Las Vegas when she called to tell Mark and me that she would like to come up and look at colleges. When I asked when she was going to ask for time off of work, she informed us that she had quit. She had quit her job. Without a new one set up. She had no means of acquiring money because she quit her job. Before she even came up to the area.
And that was my welcome to the world of being the parent of a teenager. The first lesson I learned: if it’s not a decision equivalent to jumping off a cliff, the teenager doesn’t make it. There is no risk like a life-altering one, right?
Being a parent to a “fully-grown” child is new to me as the children I have at home are eight and six years old. These are kids whose actions I can stop with a look- one singular, harsh, glaring, “you better stop that for the sake of humanity” stare. My youngest are still moldable, and I plan on working that clay like Rodin working bronze until I have shaped two thinkers ready to present to the world. And even then, when they are teenagers, they will make choices that make me wonder which part of the brain I haven’t thoroughly invaded yet.
But Mark and I have jumped head first into being the parents of a teenage girl. Sara lives with us, and we are navigating what all of our roles are. She is nineteen now, so not a child, but as a younger member of our house, she is also not an adult. I often compare my parenting style to having a leash; the leash is taut when they are small, and then slowly relaxed as they get older. But happens when a child comes to live with you and the leash doesn’t fit because the child is too big?
The good news is that Sara is on the right track. She started community college this summer, working part-time, and being brave and adventurous enough to start a life where she knows absolutely no one besides us. And for that I admire her. In the meantime, I am still learning what it means to parent a teenager/ young adult. Do I point out how many lies I think her date told her about his past and which faults she shouldn’t overlook in a potential boyfriend (already happened)? Do I force her to take the job that pays more hourly, even if she has loyalty to her current job (I didn’t)? How much do I tell her about life in the “big city” without sounding like an overly concerned mom who is crushing her dreams (I haven’t yet)?
I had a friend refer to Sara as “the ultimate boomerang child.” After first being upset that I didn’t think of that term, I consider Sara to be more of a “homing pigeon child.” Nineteen years ago, I sent her out into the world, and she came back with new thoughts and ideas- having grown up beyond my nest. Now Mark and I are preparing to send her out again- to college this time. Let’s see what thoughts and ideas come back with our little homing pigeon.

2 thoughts on “Congrats- It’s a (teenage) girl!

  1. Olivia

    This is so beautiful, wonderfully written and inspiring. Sara is lucky to have you and Mark as her second set of parents.

  2. Loriann

    You two are raising two incredible little ones. I know the big one is also absorbing all your lessons like a sponge, and the ultimate benefit of having two sets of parents to love and guide her. We should all be so lucky.

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