Structural Integrity

Lily, using the T.V. remote to test the strength of the wall. Uh-oh.

Yesterday morning, my mom and I had a long Skype discussion about moving on. We talked about growing up and rebelling and pushing back against the boundaries that our families, communities, and cultures set, and we talked about how difficult—and necessary– it can be to challenge the people that enforce those rules.

Good thing I was a perfect teenager, I reminded her, half joking. Some kids are terrible. You’re lucky I never really felt the need to push back like that. Perhaps I earned some good karma points that I can spend when Lily hits puberty.

But then she brought up The Wall.

Specifically, the one in her bedroom. The one that I, at 15, kicked a massive hole in.

And while I honestly don’t remember what started our fight or why we were so angry, I do remember the words that flew out of my mouth just before I demonstrated my phenomenal strength and flexibility with a roundhouse to the wall:

You’re not listening to me!

Needless to say, we were having a pretty rough go of it– and I, admittedly, was being a total brat. But we both agree that that moment was a pivotal point for each of us. Now, my mom will tell you that this particular fight was a really good thing. Essential, even. Because after I (not so nicely) broke through that literal and figurative wall that wasn’t doing a great job supporting either of us, we had the opportunity to rebuild, and to do so on our own terms—with a few old tools that still worked, and lots new ones that we collected along the way.

These days, I think I can better appreciate how difficult that night must have been for my mom. I’ve also been wondering about (and dreading, to a certain extent) the challenges that Lily will face as a teenager, and I’ll be honest: if she decides to kick a hole in the wall, I’m not sure that I’ll be as open or understanding or patient as my mom was. I do hope, however, that when she does feel the need to push back, she’ll feel like she has the means to do so effectively.

And if she doesn’t, I hope I’ll have to tools– and the integrity– that will help her rebuild.


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