Friday, May 11, 2007

parental bootcamp

i am hating this stage of parenting my daughter. she just turned 11 last month and we have begun to navigate hormones, mood swings and puberty and i am not doing so well. more than anything i want to raise a strong, capable, kind daughter - i don't want to crush her or bend her to my will - but dang, this is really tough to navigate.

as we did the examen last night as a family i shared that my worst was having 20 years of experience talking with young girls and helping them through this stage of their lives and being unable to do so with the one that i love the most in the world. i know it's time for her to have other adults in her life. i know that is why i had success with so many other tweens and teens was because i wasn't their mother. i was just a lady in their church who taught their sunday school class or was married to their youth pastor, or just plain cared. i know i'm not supposed to be everything to her - but i would give quite a bit to be able to not be the brunt of all of her frustration, the one she can't seem to stand and the one who she scratches at when she just can't figure out what she's feeling.

and i don't know if it is true for other mothers of daughters, but she is a window into my own soul and a flashback into my own growing up years. i know she is not me and i more than anything want her to be her own person, but dang, she is so me in so many ways - far too many ways that i hate in myself. i keep thinking "oh, if you're going to pick a way to be like me, please don't pick that!"

i realized when my kids were in their "terrible 2's" (which for me started at about 30 months and went until they were about 3 1/2) that this was more about me and liam than it was about them. this was boot camp for parenting. we were learning how to parent our children.

i looked at liam the other day and went "duh! THIS is bootcamp for the teen years". that's why this is so hard. we are now learning how to parent teenagers. and i'm sure at about 16 there will be a "boot camp for parenting young adults" too (hopefully i can remember that one is coming instead of being stuck dead center in the middle of it feeling like i'm drowning)...

i am learning how to parent my daughter as a teenager - it's supposed to be hard. it's supposed to take effort and intention. i can almost hear my own mother say "hey, if you're going to take anything from me, don't take shutting down, don't take pushing away, don't take withdrawl and feeling like your own failures are insurmountable here" - because, dang it all, i am so much like her too.

she smoked to make me go away. when things were hard and we were all nails and teeth with each other she would light up a cigarette and it would push me away. i hated them and she knew it. it was her way of controlling the situation. i never understood it then - but i do now. and yesterday i realized that i am using the computer as my cigarettes. i turn my head and loose myself in the screen and say to her "you can't ignore me, i choose to ignore you" - god help me. this is something i want to give back to my mom and not carry with me into my mothering of pink.

on sunday my counselor spoke at church about his father who had just passed away. it was a beautiful eulogy as he unpacked the wonderful things his father has handed down to him. he also was wise in speaking of the things that he didn't want to carry forward into his own life, the places where he saw weaknesses. he used this verse to explain that once we identify what those things are we are then able to choose to live a different way:

"In those days people will no longer say,
'The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children's teeth are set on edge.'

Jeremiah 31:29

i know this is an opportunity to choose life and a new way. i don't know what that is yet, but i know what it isn't. it isn't easy. it isn't comfortable. it isn't natural. maybe i do know one thing that it is. it is worth it.


Deb said...

You're is hard and it is worth it! We're doing the young adult thing now. My oldest will be 21 before long. Two of his friends turn 21 this weekend and I'm not very happy about it ;-) Each stage involves more and more letting go. You would think it would get easier but some days it just doesn't seem to.

Hope said...

I remember telling only daughter when she was 9 that I wouldn't have a rebellious daughter. She looked at me quite calmly and said, "You already do." Oh man, it pissed me off. So much so that I spent years trying to squash her spirit. It was all about me back then. How I wish she had had the freedom to push against me in healthy, out in the open ways. Not that I would have liked it but in hindsight it would have been healthier.
Pink's kicking against you is the healthiest thing she can do. It means she is on the road to becoming her own person. Hard to celebrate in the here and now, I know.
But take heart my dear friend. You will both get through it. Your awareness is amazing and something to celebrate. Pink is blessed to have a mother with a heart like yours. You rock!!

Anonymous said...

I'm ten years ahead of you on this one (mine are 21, 20 & 18), so I hope you can trust me.

God will continue to help your own prodigious growth and insight you have already attained. It will be different for your children than for you. It is *already* different for your children.

Keep handing over to them the responsibility for their own lives, bit by bit. The key is honesty. If you don't know what is appropriate in a situation with your kids, tell them you don't know. It's ok. You already know how to apologize when you blow it; keep it up.

Finally, and I think you already know this too, it helped me a lot to understand that there is a huge surge of brain growth at about age 14, again, though not so much, at about age 17, and yet again about age 20-22. {There's a reason why you can't rent a car until you're 25 :) } We can manage ok and do many things throughout our teenage years, but our mental capabilities don't really finish forming until mid-20s.

You'll make it. Hugs to you.
Dana Ames

Patchouli said...

Oh, bobbie, I'm right here with you--and right HERE in the thick of it with three teen daughers!

I read "Reviving Ophelia" when Em was 12, and it helped me immensely. "Ophelia Speaks" was next, and broke my heart for all teen girls.

she has to learn to paddle her own boat--because if both of you trying to steer, what happens then?


Dianne said...

You are very wise to realize your daughter will need other adults in her life. I pray God brings the right ones across her path. I also pray for wisdom for you in this new era of your lives together.