Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Irresistible Force, Meet Immovable Object

How Not to Parent a Teenager

My oldest daughter, at 14, is definitely a teenager. She has the moodiness, and can be frustrating, to say the least. But today, I made a mistake. (or rather, many)

It kills me because she has her own timetable for doing things. Our time lines rarely match up. And I can ask her to do something and she says she will, but it takes all day, to say, unload and reload the dishwasher. She doesn't say NO, she just...doesn't do it. A bit passive-aggressive there. We already clashed today over that very thing, so I wasn't very patient earlier this evening when I told her to go to bed.

You need some background. JBug is gifted, and a perfectionist. She is also highly anxious and has a hard time with change. She has never been diagnosed, but it has been bandied about.

She just started high school homeschool classes and was studying for her very first quiz in Biology. The book she is using is meaty; a lot of information is packed into few pages. She can easily handle the class, but she doesnt know what to expect, was tired, and it is a novel situation, absolutely a powder keg for her. I could see her panic growing. Gently, I suggested she go to bed. She locked up, as she has done in the past (not since grade school though), told me she COULD NOT and HAD TO finish her assignment. Class isn't until 2 p.m. tomorrow, she had four pages left to read; I am confident she can accomplish this in the morning. She wasn't so sure, and the back went ramrod straight, she dug in her heels, and that, as far as she was concerned, was that.

And that's when my head spun around. I spewed bile. Already smarting from our earlier encounter, she WAS going to bed, on my watch and NOW. Because, dammit, I am the mother, and you WILL listen to me, for the love of God. I have no idea where this all came just boiled over. This was exactly the wrong thing to do.

In general, I tend to avoid power struggles. NO one wins, and they are pretty much miserable for all concerned. Even when there is a victory, it is a hollow one because it just feels so crappy to be a creep to your kid. Don't get me wrong, I know how to be authoritative. Most of the time it is sufficient. But I also think once you get to be in the teens, maybe most situations can be resolved with diplomacy. We're all reasonable people, after all. Except tonight.

When I yelled at her, she froze, started to cry. I ended up yelling more, because self-sabotage is something I detest. I think there is something in me sometimes that smells blood and abhors weakness. Every once in a while, it seems to emerge to feed. It slakes its thirst on tears and sharpens its fangs on anxiety.

Needless to say, it got uglier. She had a bit of a panic attack, and that made me madder, because she could not move and I was past the point of being reasonable. She was doing this on purpose! as though anyone wants to feel that way When I get upset, I make myself get over it! And I wanted her to do the same! She's not weak, she's my kid, so deal! It really was ridiculous and I am ashamed. I finally walked away, she calmed down and went to bed. I did go in and cuddle her and pray for her while she was sleeping. But of course, the adrenalin took its toll.

Now, I have a headache. Because that's what you get when you bang your head into a wall, no matter what human shape its form takes.

I am sorry, JBug, I will try to be more merciful and gracious when you are under pressure. You aren't me, and I need to remember that.

What mistake did you make this week? Were you gracious with yourself?

T, who needed to walk away

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photo, akstockimages, flickr

4 sent chocolate:

Anonymous said...

My eldest just HAS to have the last word. And that has always been MY thing. So we tend to be professional mutterers around here. Always getting in the last word somehow, even if it means whispering it into the pillow. Ridiculous, huh? What grown woman still needs to have the last word? (Sheepishly raises hand) Teenagers! Hmph!

Christine said...

Maybe we can blame it on the week. I had a similar encounter with both of my sons, one almost 15 & the other almost 13. I decided that we all needed them to visit grandma for a couple of days.... they come home tomorrow! LOL! I love them to death, but sometimes they are a pain in the tushy! My youngest wasn't happy that he had to do schoolwork, we homeschool also. My oldest wasn't happy that we had to remind him (in not my happiest of tones) that when you put soap on things, that soap needs to be rinsed off! That would be # 5, 5 times that we had to remind him of this. GAH! Teenagers! LOL!

Anissa Mayhew said...

I went on a rant to my 10 y.o. about him not ever picking up his crap and do I look like a maid and how would he feel if one day I just picked all his crap up and threw it by the curb and WHY ARE YOUR SOCKS on the coffee table. Yes, the tears welled up, frustrating me as well, the shoulders hunched and he looked beaten.

Then 4 y.o. walked over, picked up HER socks from the coffee table and was all "oh i was looking for these".

Me? A$$HOLE.

But a forgiven one, because we both cried it out and promised to do better.

Shannan P said...

I had to laugh when I read this! You and your daughter sound like me and my mother, when I was a teenager. I could see this entire scenario playing out in our house 15 or 20 years ago.

P.S. Have hope, I turned out pretty okay.

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