Lately my daughter Lucia has been doing a lot of creative baking. She's made vegan peanut butter cookies, gluten-free brownie bites, dairy-free snickerdoodles. She's also started taking long walks to the coffee shop, always by herself. Lucia is sixteen and every ounce of her being wants to bust out and be free, but she's trapped in the house with her parents, almost all the time. These culinary experiments and long meandering excursions to get coffee are adaptations she's created to meet her need for independence and autonomy.
One of the most common statements one hears as a parent is "kids are resilient." They can handle most things-- divorce, death, a pandemic. But I wonder what we really mean by that. What does resilience truly mean? Kids adapt, just like adults do, because there is no other choice. When our resilience dries up, we are in crisis. We can no longer function. So amazingly, we continue to conjure tools, internal resources, and boundless creativity to muddle through.
In the last month or so I've been thinking a lot about Lucia's adaptive behaviors. As a curious teenager, ready to break free of her parents, Lucia has figured out a way to listen to herself, to tend to her own internal sparks in this constricted and confined time in her development. Even if what her parents have to say is wildly interesting and exciting, Lucia isn't interested because now is the time for her to not be interested in us. Lucia does not want to bake any of our old family recipes or go for a walk with her parents. Her natural place right now is listening to herself, making her own creations, being solo in the world, seeing with her own eyes.
I can't remember being sixteen in great detail. And, while I don't remember many specific experiences, I can recall the general feeling I had. I wanted to escape. I longed to be free of the gaze of my parents. I wanted my voice, my thoughts, to be heard, and not necessarily by them. I retreated, closed myself off from my parents, became excessively private to keep my independence. I wouldn't tell them about my classes, my boyfriend, even where I was applying for college.
Being a teenager in COVID is something I cannot begin to imagine. The inability to curate a private life in which to retreat from one's parents must feel like a version of insanity. But, as we like to say, kids are resilient. They figure out a way to create a world where they can survive. And like so many of us in COVID, the building blocks of our resilience must now come from an internal source instead of from the world at large. During COVID, I can't go to a yoga class and be with fellow students, sharing and absorbing the energy that is so healing for me and others. And Lucia can't go out to a party on Friday night and do the secret, hidden things that teenagers are meant to do.
We both, we all, have to turn our lens inside to find tools to shepherd us through whatever stage we are in, be in adolescence, a mid-life professional crisis, or retirement. It's inspiring to watch Lucia listening to herself, finding little ways to attend to her needs for independence and autonomy. I suggest things all the time-- different programs or activities that I think she might like-- and she politely (and sometimes not-so-politely) rejects my suggestion and goes out for.a two mile walk to get coffee or buy ingredients for a new concoction. She's listening to her internal voice instead of my external one. And that's a good thing. That's the right thing for her right now. That's resilience.