Friday, May 16, 2008

Letting go - slowly!

I know my daughter is 13. And this is an age where she wants to stretch some wings.

She's been asking me if she could go out with her friends after school. Most of the time I have said no. And each time I say no, she pleads very drama-queen like: "Why? oh WHY??? Please mum please mum please mum pleaseeee!!! How come I can't go??" and so on.

But when I stand firm, she backs down and accepts it - not very happily, but she accepts it. She sounds a bit sullen but still okay and by the time I get home, she's all smiles. That's just her sunny nature.

But lately I've been thinking that its time to let go of the tight reins a teensy bit. I can sense that if I carry on like this, I think she will rebel sooner or later. Yes, she's been very good about it so far, but there will come a day when she no longer accept this "no" from me.

At the same time, I am worried that if I let her go with her friends, what would these girls be up to? Perhaps this is terrible but my mind gives the most horrendous pictures - from shoplifting (did you know that most female shoplifters start at the age of 14 in Singapore??) to having a smoke in a stairwell, to being in a gang fight, to hanging out with boys and, the mildest of nightmares, eating at expensive fast food joints with no money for this.

I am afraid of the influence these girls may have on her. I know one of them has the unfortunate habit of wandering around before and after school without informing her frantic mother of her whereabouts, flaunting the many expensive handphones she has (yes the family is wealthy) (and yes she's idly offered Gillian a handphone too!), boasting of frightening stories of (1) being in girl gang fights (2) having her limbs broken in multiple places (3) having an abortion etc. In case this forms the picture of uncaring nonchalant parents, this is wrong - for I've met her mother and I know her mother cares a great deal for her - only thing is she may not have absolute control over the situaton at the moment.

So I'm worried, yes.

But I also know that its time to give a little leeway. So the other day she called and begged me to let her to go to Parkway after school with her friends. I took a deep breath and said yes. BUT, I said, on several conditions - (1) give me the handphone number of your friend you're going out with and (2) must be back HOME by 11am, not "on the way" but really physically in the house.

It was already 9am when she called. So that would mean she would only have less than an hour at Parkway with her friends since the bus journey alone would take an hour. Still, she readily agreed to all my conditions.

At 11am, I called home. And yes, she was there. Phew!

One small step for us. It hasn't erased my doubts but increased my trust in her a teensy bit. I might be more inclined to letting her go out with her friends for short bursts like this more often. After school is okay. But Am I being too anal-retentively strict? Over-controlling?

I find it so hard to let go and trust that nothing bad is going to happen, that she will not get into trouble. Is this lack of trust a remnant of our stormy past? Perhaps so. Is this due to a stereotype I have in my mind of NT kids? Perhaps so too. Despite all my talk about accepting NT kids and giving the benefit of the doubt, I still hang on to these preconceptions. What are these stereotypes that trouble me? That NT kids come from troubled backgrounds, that they have a penchant for getting into trouble, seeking the wrong kind of attention etc. Maybe I must first work on myself and rid myself of these preconceptions.

How do I do this?

One idea that comes to mind is to hang out with them (though they may be resistant to hanging out with me - a mom!). I could ask Gillian to ask them over to the house for the holidays. Take the bunch out to a movie. Take time to get to know them and to know my daughter.

And one way to do that is via the Mother-Daughter Project (MDP). I read the book and was so intrigued by the idea that I felt I had to do something like this here. Gut feel just tells me that I need to reach out to Gillian and vice versa before she gets to the age when all the channels are down. Right now, she still calls to ask me for 'permission' for everything - can she go on the computer, can she go to the neighbour's house, can she eat the candy in the fridge, can she switch on the tv etc. But there will come a day when she no longer will. And what do I do then?

So the MDP means setting up a support group for mothers and daughters around the same age range. I wrote to the Chairwoman of the KC PTSG and got a warm response inviting me to sit in at a meeting and present this idea to the committee and the school. So I did.

I was very nervous and everyone was new to me. I wondered if my idea would be accepted or if it would be slammed. A short conversation before the meeting started already left me feeling a bit discouraged. I'm not a trained psychologist and I am worried if I am able to carry this out, by facilitating a group like this and motivating other mothers to co-facilitate etc. And gosh, how to deal with mother-to-mother politics and daughter-to-daughter politics?? I was (am!) worried.

But when it came to my turn to speak, shakey-voiced or no, the idea just took on a life of its own and sold itself. Net result was the principal, the VP, the teachers present and the parents validated the idea and affirmed it. I have their support. Gosh, I was so relieved! We agreed that the group would start and hopefully grow from parents in Gillian's class. So my work is to contact them via email and hopefully get a decent response and initiate the first meeting. Mothers meet mothers for the first 6 to 9 sessions until we're all comfortable and then we bring the daughters in.

So this is a start. A start to helping me let go, helping me trust and to move on a different path (untested waters!) with a budding teenager. I will post more on the MDP when things start moving further.


Rita said...

Pat, good for you :-)

I wish I have the time to start this is KC primary too.

The Chengs said...

Thankfully for Sarah, the girls that she hangs around with, are girls I know. I know their parents too for a few years already. So it's easier.

She has several sleepovers too with these friends.

So, Rita, get to know all your daughter's friends now while they are all still in primary!

Hopfully they hang together still in secondary.

Rita said...

She hangs out with her non-havoc KC sailing buddies at school. I know their fathers, mothers (and sometimes even their sisters and brothers !)