This morning my teen daughter lost her earbuds. “Did you shove them in your front backpack pocket?” I asked her.
“No!” she snapped, then barked “Just pick me up before study hall!” as she stormed off into the open doors of the bus. I could hear her voice crumble in the last few words, her best attempt to hold back tears.
A year ago I might have been annoyed and rolled my eyes, offended by what appeared to be a seemingly disrespectful display. Just enjoy the chatter of the kids on the bus! What? You can’t survive an hour without your phone? We don’t speak to each other in that tone!
But today, without even texting her, I raced home to try to find them, searching her room and the spots she thought she might have left them, finally discovering them under her carseat. I pulled up her location up on the app on my phone, then drove to meet her at her next stop, one where the bus sits for 20 minutes. Once I’ve parked after dodging cars in the drop-off lane and rows of school busses, she meets me, grabbing them out of my hand.
“Thank you!” she said, earnestly.
Then she did something she hasn’t done in a long time: she grabbed me and squeezed me in tight, even with other kids and bus driver looking on. Her arms wrapped around my waist and held me there, embraced, for what seemed like forever.
It was magical.
See, my daughter’s earbuds and her music are her protector. She’s an anxious kid, and that music blasting helps calm her and focus her energy. It’s tough being a teenager, especially these days, when the world seems to be moving faster and pressing harder than even their young brains and bodies can keep up with.
But when she has her earbuds in or headphones on, she can breathe and think in a safe space that she can bring with her, wherever she goes.
So, I ignore the voice that says she needs to fail. Next time she won’t be as careless! Sure, there are times for those lessons to be learned. Turn off the helicopter and be the lighthouse parent!
And then there are the days when there are no lessons to be taught. She just needs to know that I see her, and hear her, in all senses of those words.
We are quick to judge teens with headphones. I know this because I have one. Maybe you do too.
The next time your teen is next to your in the passenger seat, head tilted against the window, music blasting loud enough for you to hear, instead of grumpily tapping her, just put your hand on her shoulder and squeeze.
She might just be trying to cope with the grown-up world that seems to beckon them all too soon these days.