Before Caroline talked, I had never parented a talker. Before she got a cell phone, I had never parented in the digital age. Before Caroline was a high schooler, I never knew how to encourage while not stressing out a teenage student. Over and over again, I am forced to remember that while I have been a high school student, Caroline hasn’t been. The current lesson I am learning? The way I studied for finals, is not the way Caroline studies for finals. The way I react to stress is not the way she does.
It is all new. For both of us.
Each time I am reminded of our differences, I come back to the orange popsicle story. When Caroline was a toddler, we belonged to a pool and tennis club in Richmond. We spent hours there in the summer months and the highlight of our afternoons was often a trip to the snack bar. One afternoon, we went and they were out of red and purple popsicles. They only had orange popsicles left. When I learned this, I said thanks but we don’t like orange popsicles. We started walking back to the pool but Caroline pulled me back. For some inexplicable reason, she still wanted a popsicle. I was confused because who likes orange popsicles? Well, guess what? Caroline likes orange popsicle. I don’t but she does.
As Caroline completes her first year of high school, I am reminded that there are many, many orange popsicle moments ahead of us and it is more important than ever for me to pay attention to this. Enter my current lesson. The way Caroline studies for finals is different than the way I did. I started weeks before, locked in my bedroom with only my cat, Whiz Bang, for company. I created study sheets and wrote out fact after fact over and over again. Until I could write everything out from memory, I would not let myself stop. I can still picture crumbled pages of notebook paper covered with blue ink marks scattered over my bed. Caroline waits longer to start. She likes to study with people, not cats. Her version of writing everything out is talking it out. She tells stories about her facts and she needs people around to listen.
So while I am not completely ok with Caroline’s studying style, I am paying attention. I am still totally stressed out and confused by her methods. But… I am also reminding myself that this is yet another chapter in the orange popsicle story.