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.
When my daughters (14 and 15) are grown and living on their own, I hope they miss me and call me often. I hope they visit.
We’re in middle of high school angst: social issues, the need to be more independent, and stress of grades. On some days, I feel like I am nagging incessantly. It can be drive a wedge between us.
The 14 year old went out with friends so I pounced on the opportunity.
“Josie, want to go out for lunch with me?”
“Anywhere you want.”
She chose a Japanese restaurant and had the chicken teriyaki bento box. I had the California roll. She told me funny stories about her friends and how she feels anxious, even when on vacation. I was careful to just listen and sympathize.
Our family (my husband, two teenager daughters and I) had fallen into a habit of eating dinner together and then retreating to our rooms to do homework, watch TV and write. We were together many hours a week, but we weren’t interfacing much. I longed for that connection, but evening walks fell by the wayside and watching movies together (which we all enjoy!) was not exactly interactive.
Our girls have adopted snarky, rebellious attitudes. It’s normal, but I felt like it could alienate us as parents if we didn’t talk more. The girls once mentioned a fun card game. I logged onto Amazon.com.
20 minutes in and we’re laughing and discussing our answers. Yes, it isn’t exactly “politically correct.” But it’s funny and the girls find it very compelling. The game is hilarious and we all enjoy it. It’s not for everyone – just “horrible people”.