Watching them grow up is often a struggle for me. My daughter’s excitement about coming to this event was infectious and at times extreme. So it is no wonder that she experienced some disappointment; she had built it up in her mind to be something so spectacular that it was bound to disappoint in some way.
She is at an age now where the presence of her friends is part of what she needs. It was nice to be here for her, but it would have been nicer had she brought a friend. Someone with whom she could share her excitement and disappointment. She could tell me about it and we can process it but that is not the same as being with someone who shares those feelings.
Indeed, the event was a disappointment in many ways. She did not get to meet the people that she wanted to meet. There was not much to do all day except walk around among the perhaps 15,000 people here hoping to meet someone she admires. And the noise was incredible. It seemed very much like watching a trailer for a movie that is really funny and then going to the movie and realizing that the only good part of the movie was the trailer.
I found the event fascinating in many ways. So many young people in one place without any trouble going on. I did not see any evidence of drinking, drugs, not even much profanity. They were genuinely well behaved and often quite kind. There were very young people giving out free hugs, songs, dance, and discussions on things such as bullying, body image, self expression. And music that seems to appeal to this younger crowd more than it does me. There were some with shirts expressing ideas that were troublesome (like the shirt that said “dead girls can’t say no”). But overall I was really impressed with these young people. That, however, did not make the event enjoyable for my daughter.
Throughout the day I watched her go from excitement and joy to sadness and disappointment and back again. It was hard. As the mom there is a huge part of me that wanted to step in and make everything better. And there were times where I tried to do that. There were also times where I felt I needed to let her be in the struggle, let her just experience being sad, overwhelmed, and disappointed.
We spent quite a bit of time throughout this long day processing her emotions. She came to a point where she was able to understand that it did not serve her to be overly attached to having something happen, having a particular person being here for her to meet. She understands the pitfalls of letting her excitement run away with her. The need to reality check her expectations. We called it a learning experience. She had more independence here than I have ever given her at an event. I did not hover constantly although I was constantly in the venue watching over her perhaps without her knowing or sensing that all the time.
So quickly she will be an adult making all her own choices and I have to give her some time to start doing that where I can guide the process and be there to help her understand what went wrong and why and what went right and why. But she needs to have her journey, not the journey that I want her to have but the one that is authentically her own. I find my daughter to be a fascinating young woman and while it can be painful at times to let go and watch her struggle, it is necessary to do so. With kindness, with compassion, with support, with immense love, I know she can face anything.