I’ve mentioned a tense relationship between my daughter and me on this blog. It has gotten pretty distressing at times and when I decided to push my ego aside, I realized I had to surrender. Pestering was not working. I had reflected on my intention. Was my primary motive to help her be “successful” in life? Was hounding her to do homework and practice her violin most important? No. But that was what I was practicing.
I set my priorities clearly. First of all, she must know I love her unconditionally. Secondly, this is her life. I trust her with it. She knows what to do and if she doesn’t do it, she will have to face the consequences. That’s how she will grow. Throughout it all, I will love her, absolutely.
What I DO owe her is a happy mother. Every time I start to resort to my habit of nagging, I redirect my energies to what I want to do: plant lantana in the backyard (even in 100 degree heat), exercise, write, cook and so on.
Since I’ve put this practice in place, a magnificent event has occurred. We’ve become closer than ever. She wanted to get into shape. I took her to a fitness club. We signed her up for a four week membership (realizing there will be NO time for the gym once school starts). The club gave me a 2 week free pass. Organically…naturally…completely unplanned…I’ve become her trainer. We work out together and laugh and (sometimes) partake in junk food afterwards. There is ease and love where angst and friction once were. And if I ask her to do something, she does it. Most of the time. And that’s OK.
The intention came first. Space (a lot of it) came next. And then complete awareness and unconditional love. I’d say this works for all relationships.
Have you ever read something that was just what you needed to read?
I finished reading Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck. There is an essay/chapter within it titled “Parenting in Three Stages.”
“Adolescence comes as a gigantic shock to the modern parent, in large part because it seems so much like the adolescence you yourself went through. Your adolescent is sullen. Your adolescent is angry. Your adolescent is mean. In fact, your adolescent is mean to you.”
Back when they looked like this,
I could ask them to make their beds and they’d respond with sweet laughter (even if they didn’t make their beds).
But now, they look more like this:
and if I ask them to do the smallest thing, fire comes out of their ears. They whine. They sigh heavily. They’re angry.
Thank you, Nora, for letting me know their behavior is normal. I can laugh it off now. Kinda.
Today was the first day of Tetra Quartet Summer Camp for my daughters, 14 and 15. They both play violin.
The 15-year-old is a night owl. But for camp, she needs to wake up by 7:30 am, not her preferred hour of noon.
She was a sleeping angel – so cute! – who was about to become a demon. I dreaded it. I gave her a hug and kiss. Nothing.
I nudged her a little later. Nothing.
I yelled out from the hallway, “Got to get up soon!” Nothing.
My mind flashed past articles I read about not waking your children. Something about being a helicopter parent. I’m not a helicopter parent! Still…she needed to get up. My BP was rising.
At last, she woke. Grumpy. She slammed things. She packed her music stand roughly. I held my tongue. I asked her to do that last night! How dare she get angry because she didn’t prepare! But I remained quiet.
We were in the car. She wanted me to hurry, because tardy musicians must do a little song and dance for the (on time) group.
As calmly as I could manage, I said, “You weren’t prepared for this morning. Your oversight is not my emergency. I’m not going to rush and risk an accident. You have a cell phone with an alarm clock. I will not wake you up anymore. If you can’t get up, you’ll be late. Your song and dance consequence is not my concern.” Sitting in the backseat, the 14-year-old’s silence was deafening. Good – a bit of peer pressure for the older sibling.
We sat in peace for the rest of the ride.
I realized that had I said something earlier, when she was huffing and puffing, and slamming things, we would have had a “blow out.” Instead, I waited until I was calm (and she was calmer) and stated in a factual matter what was what.
While pregnant with her, the most astounding thing happened! I would put food in my mouth and chew. She’d kick like mad before I even swallowed. This occurred every time. I was incredulous – what a baby!
When she was two, she had chocolate cake. She kicked her feet high in delight. The frosting was all over her face and her eyes shone with joy.
At four, she had pizza. How she held it in her tiny, pudgy hands!
She’s had many meals since then. With girlish abandon, she eats what she wants when she wants: warm bread with butter, garlic mashed potatoes, steak, ice cream sundaes and healthy food, too.
She. Loves. Food. She likes high quality food. She can discern whether ingredients are fresh and she doesn’t like gristle on her steak.
She also loves dance class. She loves to learn challenging moves and practice them over and over and get good at it. She’s made such progress! Her body is lithe, supple and strong.
She’s my baby. She’s 15, but she’s my baby and I want her to be happy and healthy. I want her to love eating, dancing, laughing and playing violin all the rest of her days. I want her to enjoy life!
But our culture wants to destroy her. American society wants her mind to be cloudy with insecurity and a bit of self-hatred. Air-brushed models are in magazines, surgically modified celebrities are on TV, the Internet and film.
Even family members make comments. Grandparents plant seeds of doubt when they caution against weight gain. They compare sisters to each other, silently massacring dreams and self-confidence. They undermine the strong sisterly bond that exists. Well, they try anyway. These girls have each other’s backs, thank goodness.
If she were my son, would you tell him to watch what he eats? Would you scare him and tell him he might get fat if he “puts that” in his mouth? Would you comment on his figure as he stands in front of the fridge?
Please…I implore you…stop it. Stop with the comments and the body shaming. Stop trying to exert control through fear.
I’ve discussed my trials and tribulations parenting teenagers here and here and…everywhere.
I had a breakthrough today. If you’re reading this and you’re a perfect parent, well, you won’t be impressed in the least. Maybe I’m a slow learner. But this is a true story.
I was walking today and listening Eckhart Tolle. I know some of you think it’s all self-help crap and I’m a lost soul…but I have become a better person for it. Anyway, in this particular recording, Tolled talked about the importance of of “space” and “non-reaction.”
The goal, he says, is to feel at peace. At all times.
Just then, my daughter texted me. “—— can drive me to you.”
“Great,” I respond.
“I need to go home and change and do my makeup and then I need to be back at school by 6:15,” she texts.
“Can —– drive you home?” My boss had a retirement party this afternoon. It’d be quite challenging to drive back and forth.
Tolle continues to talk about the importance of space and non-reaction. If you can, create space between yourself and the angry person.
She calls me. I answer. Good, texting is dumb, anyway.
She talks to me in an angry voice. I can hear a bunch of teenagers trying to talk to her. She gets angry at me because I can’t understand her – she’s talking to me, she’s talking to them…I’m confused.
I ask her (again) if —- can drive her home.
She responds with sarcasm and anger. She sighs heavily, as if it’s so hard to have me as a mom. She talks to me as if I’m stupid. Her words become staccato with anger. I. told. you.
I hang up.
She texts me with more anger. Her answers include expletives. How dare I hang up on her!
I text back with: “If you think you’re going to talk to me that way, you’re out of luck.”
I’m proud of my lack of emotion. I feel the anger, but I refuse to react. Eckhart has my back.
Tolle continues, “Someone may even yell at you and you want to yell back, but don’t.” It’s as if he’s walking with me!
So I don’t. I don’t react. I want to, believe me. I want to remind her whose the mom…but I’ve been down that road before and it never works.
It never pays to engage with her rage.
Long story short, she tried to involve me in an argument. She wanted to place blame. She wanted to excuse her horrible behavior and blame me. I stop her. I re-direct her to make a plan. We make the plan. We execute.
Later, she apologizes. She has not apologized in a very long time…months, even.
I see many painful moments in her future. She will have to learn the hard way, she always has. But that’s OK. I’ll be here.