Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today, apparently, I simply suck

Running out of incentives to induce good behavior, this morning, as she tore the house up and berated me because she wouldn't get out of bed in time to catch her ride, I calmly informed my daughter that although her replacement Converse Hi-Tops would arrive today, she would not be wearing them until she made it on time to jazz band practice for an entire week.

"You made a commitment to be in a band and that means attending practices," I stated emphatically.

"You made a commitment to be my mother and that's not working out so well, is it?" she screamed in my face.

Her words bite me still even as I type. It may be easy on the outside looking in to agree with her and tell me that this messy relationship is indeed my fault. If only I would handle things differently, lay down the law, spend more time with her, etc... I already get that from a couple of people in my ward (lesson #1: never judge a mother through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter) to whom she is nothing but sweet and respectful and fun, and who, frankly, would be shocked if they witnessed one of her too-frequent tirades.

Sure there are days when I could handle things better. But I think the fact that no matter how bad it gets I don't usually yell back; I haven't smacked her across the face; I continue to calmly tell her "You're Welcome" and "Bye, I love you. Have a good day," as I drop her off to school (even on mornings when she's at her worst); and I haven't, as of yet, left home or wished the same upon her when she is a mother, speaks volumes about my commitment to be her mother.

I only hope I can see this through and that my commitment (unless she gets her way--which she doesn't always, because that's not always what's best for her--she chooses to not see the love) will be enough. On days like today I honestly wonder...


~j. said...

Posts like these always leave me feeling so inadequate because who am I to give advice of any kind to a woman who has children older than my own, when I've never had teenagers of my own to worry about in this capacity? Having been a teenaged daughter, however, and not only remembering but also often looking back at those times in my life, I do need to tell you that you are doing the right thing. The soft answers. The expressions of love. The continued guidance and support for her to do the right thing (obedience, upholding her committments, etc.). It will not only be enough, it will be exactly the right thing. I know you're not looking for some forward-looking answer of, "One day she'll be sorry!" because that's not the point. You are showing love, you are exuding love, and that is the point. Your reactions in those fashions are what she'll remember, and it's an accurate reflection of the woman you are.

b. said...

Ok, so I was going to say this earlier, then ~j.'s comment was so perfect, but...

....what would happen if you just went ahead and slapped her across the face....just once....not hard...but for shock value.

(I'm only half kidding...)

compulsive writer said...

Thanks so much for the support--I really needed that.

Here's the thing. I know I'm not perfect, but I also know I'm a good mom. My kids get so much more from me than my own mother was able to give me when I was their ages. And you know me, I'm a fairly confident woman. But in moments like those I honestly feel so small, so unworthy and so hopeless--even though I know she's out of line. I hate feeling that way.

My boys never pushed me so far and never pushed my buttons so directly, but when they were angry, unkind or out of line I simply looked them in the eye and said quietly, "I don't deserve to be treated like that," and walked away. And they knew. But nothing works on this child. Nothing. And yet, don't you think deep down she has to know, too?

wendysue said...

~j, you are so right, and

b., you are crackin' me up!

I'd like to go back in time and smack my 12-year old self a little. . .ugh, the things I put my poor mother through.

Hang in there. . .she knows. . .and someday she'll realize it.

Waldo said...

OK, I'm not a mommy, but I have known a few teenage girls and, having dealt with my own sisters (including taking one to rehab and then throwing her out of my house, where she was living because her behavior literally made my mom so sick she had to go to the hospital), I am all in favor of a judicious slap. Not abuse, not a fight, but there are certain things that I, for one, will not tolerate being said. "I hate you mom" got me backhanded HARD in the mouth as a 13-year old, and I will never say it again, nor will I allow it to be said in my house.

Maybe I'm mean, I don't know. Also, as I said, not a mom. But maybe you should think about the slap, and not feel too guilty when you do? I don't know.

sue-donym said...

How does she act with her dad? I know that when I went through a faze of hurting my mother, my dad sat me down and gave me the most serious talk of my life. He demanded that I treat HIS WIFE, MY MOTHER with respect. I don't know, but it really stuck with me.

If it were me, I would tape record her rantings and play it back to her. But then I read what ~j said, and I felt guilty, but just for a second.

AzĂșcar said...

You'll be best friends in 10 years.

Sorry about the ones in between.

compulsive writer said...

Waldo--I appreciate your perspective. I grew up in a house where we didn't talk to our parents like that because it meant the sharp end of a cowboy boot or a few lashes of the belt on our backsides. I think that contributes to my frustration--that worked on me. But I can't--won't--do that. I guess part of the problem is my own fault. I grew up giving respect out of fear, and it wasn't true respect. So I told myself I wanted to get respect because I deserved it, not because someone was afraid of me. I want my kids to obey for the right reasons. Am I wrong? It certainly doesn't seem to be working.

As for her father, sometimes she does push his buttons, just not nearly as far. But he's gone a lot so this ends up being my responsibility.

AzĂșcar--please keep telling me that. I guess part of why this is so hard is I still don't have that type of relationship with my mother. So it's hard for me to stay hopeful this will all work out.

Waldo said...

I didn't mean it as a constant thing (I mean, I got beat a lot, but I deserved it). I just feel that there are multiple tools you have available to you as a parent, and to me, a good spanking (infrequent) sends a strong message. I don't think that corporal punishment, infrequently applied, induces fear; rather, I think that it is one of the most effective ways to communicate that "x" behavior is COMPLETELY unacceptable.

That's just me, though. I want to echo azucar's comment, too- she will love you. Raise them up in the way they should go and they won't depart from it (terrible paraphrase). I have seen this a lot in my own family and even in my own life. And let me tell you, my mom is hard to deal with sometimes.

Last thing- it sucks that you have to take everything in the (extra) long view. We all want things to work out NOW. But I promise (speaking as a wayward child) that your kids will appreciate the discipline and structure and love. I sure do.

compulsive writer said...

waldo--I knew what you meant. Thanks.

Deby said...

Being the mother of a 14 year old daughter myself - I totally sympathize. You are doing good. Stick to your guns and you will both get through this.

When Katya gets too far out of line I put a bag of chocolate covered pretzels and a bottle of Midol in front of her and tell her if she has nothing nice to say she can stay in her room. Works like a charm.

compulsive writer said...

deby--that's a good one. I'll have to try that.

The Ward Family said...

It's funny how things change as you get older. Most of us have had our ups and downs with our parents when growing up. The day will come when she will learn to respect your opinion. Who knows, she may turn out to be one of those girls who has to talk to her mom everyday while in college.

Queen Scarlett said...

Wow... lot's of wise words above. ME... I'm shaking in my bare feet. Is this typical of girls? I have two...should I start bulking up? ;-)

ps. I grew up too afraid to do anything rebellious... so I am no help here.

Geo said...

Hey, Frank, you are wonderful. You are brave and loving and tough, and you are a good mother. I don't know if I could do what you're doing. I know I'd want to, but could I bear up? I don't know.

Is there somebody you could get involved--your husband? a trusted friend? somebody your daughter loves and listens to or at least wants to impress? YW leadership? a bishop? her brothers? anybody? who could help support you in this, maybe talk with her, or at least gear a very specific lesson to her need? I think what you are teaching her by your astonishingly enduring example of healthy mother love is spot on. I do wonder though if it wouldn't be good to try to teach some principles in a supplemental way about verbal abuse. That's what it is.

Yeah, hormones. Yeah, teenage. Yeah, struggle for independence. Yeah, brain still developing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, all of that. But those don't give a young person a license to hurt. The sooner a person learns to have power over the right things and the right person in the right ways, the happier and more secure she/he will be. I don't think a person has to wait for adulthood to begin to get it. She can't feel good about how she's handling things. Because you don't unleash on her, she doesn't truly know how it feels to be beaten down (this is a good thing). She hasn't been compelled to learn that sort of empathy yet. But she can gain it in other ways.

I know I'm not qualified, really, to give this topic a shot, never having raised kids, but I can't help myself. I care about you and think you're carrying enough high emotion already. While I do believe that some things simply take time to work out and heal, I don't believe in putting all your eggs in the tomorrow basket. Maybe nothing will work right now, but just maybe something will, if it comes from another source besides the very very tired, wonderful mom. You need backup.

Amy said...

CW I have to admit, having two LITTLE girls of my own, these posts always scare me.

My good neighbor a while back shared a funny confession that I'd never thought about until she brought it up. One day we were sharing our motherly woes over a gallon of ice cream. Toddlers. Babies. The physical exhaustion. She said, "I tell myself, 'what will be worse? The physical exhaustion of raising little ones? Or the mental/emotional exhaustion of raising them as teenagers? I guess physical ain't so bad.'"

Bless you, momma! And bless all these wise commenters, too! I hope this blog hangs around for the raising of all my kidlets!!!

compulsive writer said...

geo--thanks. That means a lot. I do get back up once in awhile and I'm going to be better about stepping out of range when I need to.

amy--I'm so sorry. Don't be scared. It's not at all like this with every girl (this is all my mom's fault, really, because she cursed me that someday I'd get back every bit of attitude I dished out to her). And it's not even always like this with mine. Today she actually hugged my feet (because she wasn't willing to get up off the grass) and she isn't like this at all with anyone else--people really love her. I really love her, too. I just don't like her sassiness.

But just so you know there are cool things about having teenagers, too, I had to come back and share this. The rest of the family is out of town, but I have to work and so does my second oldest, who is sixteen. We were running errands this afternoon and I was telling him where I planned on picking up dinner tonight and asked if that was OK with him.

"I'm kind of torn," he said. Apparently a bunch of his friends are getting together tonight. He actually admitted to me that he was torn between hanging out with his friends and hanging out at home with just me and him! Of course he's not stupid--he went with the friends. But I sure got a lot of satisfaction out of his being torn (either that or he got a lot of mileage out of saying it to me).