Zack set his alarm for 6:00 AM on the last Saturday of Christmas break. Anticipating the return to school after a two-week vacation, he wanted to remember what it’s like to wake up early – then he slept for a couple more hours. Neither of the kids were eager to go back, and we would have been happy to have them around longer.

During extended periods of time around home, Lauren and Zack settle pretty quickly into a rhythm of contentment and calm. Less conflict, reading for hours, sleeping in, hanging out in each other’s rooms, and watching movies and playing games with us. At ages 14 and 12, they also do their share of eye-rolling, dramatic sighing, arguing, and walking away in the middle of a conversation. And of course the kids occasionally regard us as idiots. But during this break I noticed Lauren calling us “Mommy” and “Daddy” more often than the usual “Mom” and “Dad.” What’s up with that?

Lauren’s right in the middle of the adolescent conflict between still being “our little girl” and engaging in her very normal quest for greater independence. This monumental struggle requires as much understanding and perspective as we can muster and sometimes more, and I’ll take all the help I can get when one of those teenage tempests blows in.

I benefit greatly from having simple images and ideas to grab onto when the pressure is on or when I feel like I’m sliding into trouble. The “Daddy/Idiot” pairing offers just such a handhold. It gives some insight into the confusing and constantly-shifting landscape of adolescent life. It helps me realize that Lauren still feels connected to us. It reminds me that the years of love and attention we poured into her are still in there. And it lets me know that we are just about where we should be along this well-worn path.


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