Life lessons provided by my teenager

Alyza LeBlanc

When I was going through the process of adopting my daughter, I made her some promises:

  1. To be completely honest (at the time this related to the status of the custody hearings)
  2. To always respect her wishes to (or not to) maintain relationships with family and friends
  3. To make new rules, not adopt rules of previous households she had lived in
  4. Regardless of whether or not adoption happened, I'd be there for her the rest of her life

I will admit there were all kinds of apprehensions jumping into parenting of an 11 year old, wondering how she had been affected by a life without boundaries, the drugs and alcohol she had been exposed to as a young child, expecting emotional outbursts, meltdowns or anger issues (none of which I experienced). The only thing I knew for certain was that she deserved a stable home where she didn't have to worry about drugs, police or whether there was something to eat.

I have been so incredibly blessed by the addition of this child in my life. I have learned there is no such thing as perfect parenting. She has humbled me, made me more vulnerable and enhanced my life in indescribable ways. She comes home regularly speaking of other students challenged with depression, panic attacks, anxiety and a myriad of other teenage related issues kids are struggling with these days. Perhaps because she had so much to endure from an early age and learned amazing coping skills, or maybe she was just build with incredible inner strength, she is a well balanced, intelligent, well behaved and happy kid. I had her in therapy from the time she moved in with me until earlier this year when her counselor said she felt she was wasting our time as there didn't appear to be any need for her services - for that I am immensely grateful.

I have kept my promise to always be honest with her. I hope as she walks through her teenage and early adult years, this will translate to an open relationship, where she is comfortable coming to me with the inevitable difficult decisions and situations she will face.

She has maintained a relationship with grandparents and a step sister she lived with for two years preceding adoption. We exchange gifts on holidays and occasional video calls to catch up. At first, she had regular contact with her biological father and communicated electronically with her bio mom but over time she has limited these communications to holidays, birthdays, etc. She has done an apt job of setting her own boundaries and managing them and does not seem to be affected by any guilt surrounding her decisions. From this she has taught me to be fearless. Initially I was so concerned about their feelings and their perception of me. Letting that go and simply recognizing and supporting that she knows exactly what she wants and needs has been quite freeing.

As she gets ready for Summer adventures including an amusement park vacation with her girlfriend, a week in Boston, and a canoeing/camping trip with my amazing aunt. I will miss her and our daily routine, but I am so thankful she is getting to live her best teenage life before the years of serious responsibilities appear.

The easiest promise to keep? Without a doubt, no matter what she does, no matter where life takes her, this child can count on me!

*This nonfiction piece is based on observation and research. I do not claim to be an expert in areas of public health, academia, mental health, or science, nor am I providing professional medical or legal advice. Opinions shared are expressly drawn from personal experience.

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Lifestyle insights on work, parenting, and relationship balance from the perspective of a business professional and solo parent to an adopted teen.


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