The Lesson of the Orchid

Finally blooming

For my 50th birthday, a friend gave me a beautiful flowering orchid, which I placed on the kitchen windowsill.  Carefully reading the accompanying instructions, my husband and I were surprised to see how little care it needed.  No plant food?  No constant watering?    Everything we thought we knew about growing a plant was apparently wrong for this one.

The flowers soon shriveled and died, but the leaves appeared to be growing and happy.  We transplanted it to a bigger pot and held our breaths, hoping it wouldn’t be too upset.  To our relief, in a month or so new buds appeared on the stems.  They grew so slowly, weeks seemed to pass without any changes.  Even when they looked ready to pop, days went by and they didn’t open.

Finally, one morning I pointed and said, “Look!  It’s a flower!”  And my husband said, “About darned time!”

Raising an adolescent is like growing an orchid.  Just as too much water is bad for the orchid, so can too much control (or advice or rescuing) be bad for a teen.  A gentle touch, a neutral approach, a wait-and-see attitude are sometimes needed to balance the battles that must be fought.  And it might take a long time to see any results.

As you head into 2011, remember these key points about parenting teens:

  • Empathy will get you farther than threatening, every time;
  • Consequences should be delivered matter-of-factly, when everyone’s in the “blue zone;”
  • Teens live in a bubble of self-centeredness;
  • Treat your teens  like adults but don’t be surprised when they behave like children;
  • Make sure they know you will always love them, no matter what.

One day you will look over to see that somehow your prickly, unpredictable teen has turned into a responsible, delightful young adult.

And it will be your turn to say, “About darned time.”

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