Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How Come No One Warns You?

No one warns you when you have children how hard it's going to be. And I don't just mean physically exhausting or financially draining or brain-frying hard - though it's all the those things as well. I'm talking about emotionally, heart-wrenchingly hard. Yesterday I had to do something that was very difficult to do as a parent and it's something I find myself having to do more and more often as my girls get deeper and deeper into their teen years. I had to let Katie, who is 16 years old, suffer the consequences of her bad decision when I could easily have rescued her. Now we're not talking about something super big and scary here. We're talking about taking the responsibility for getting yourself to school on time. Not only had she set her alarm, I had warned her 4 times to get up because it was getting late. When she finally did get up at 7:20, she was mad at me for not waking her up! She begged me to call the school and excuse her tardiness. I wouldn't do it. Before you all think I'm a major meanie, it's important to note that this is something she does fairly regularly. I thought it might be time for her to suffer the consequences. But, it was hard. Very hard! I knew she would get in trouble when she got to school. I was very upset about this the entire morning, until I read Anita's post about a teen who got herself expelled from school for drug possession. Then I had a reality check and realized this was really not such a big deal. Anita's post came at just the right time for me. I REALLY needed to read that yesterday. Funny how that worked out.

A little while later I read Alex's newest post. She talked about how as our kids grow into their teen years and become more independent, we lose them for awhile. And sometimes the child who worshipped you when they were small can no longer stand to be in the same room with you. But that as they mature they come back to you. Wow! I realized that part of why I felt so badly about the relatively minor incident with Katie was because of that very thing. Katie has always been a little prickly, but for the past couple of years she can't even be in the same room with me without rolling her eyes. When I try to talk to her, about even the simplest things, she gets testy, snappy and fresh with me. She's like this with her sister and her Dad, too. It seems as though she can't stand any of us. It is very painful when you feel as though your child hates you. Especially a child you so longed for. A child you went through hell and back to have. You hear the expression that to have a child is have a piece of your heart walking around outside your body. No one ever tells you how hard it is when that child takes your heart and stomps on it. Well, I'll tell you. It hurts! And Alex, your post couldn't have come at a better time. And I hope with all my heart that you are right. I hope that someday my precious Katie comes back to me.


Sandy said...

You've got me in tears here as I read today's post. I know how difficult this is for you and how hard you try to do the right thing all the time not just with Katie & Madeleine. I've seen the eye-rolling and "prickliness" you mention but I've also seen plenty of the sweet Katie, too. When she's here with Grandpa 'Duck' and me she's the same as always, a little more grown-up for sure, but still the sweet little girl who wants to please. But then I've been there, too, when we've taken her home and there's a transformation as she walks through the door. I'm sure everyone is telling you it's normal. Hang in there. Keep doing everything as you always do, it'll get better!

Tammy Howard said...

Before I get into the meat of this, let me first say that I think you were wrong a couple weeks ago about that not being photogenic thing - you (both) look adorable in this picture!

Now I'll step out of the shallow end of the pool and address what we've come here to discuss. Ahem.

I thought it was interesting, too, how Anita Alex and you all seemed to be on the same page yesterday. I have been in constant residence on that page for a couple years now and I'm so afraid that things are going to get worse before they get better. The situation you describe in your post sounds a lot like my house.

It is so helpful to know that other families deal with the same sort of issues. I sometimes feel so isolated - like it's only my kid and that I've gone terribly terribly wrong in my parenting to have produced such a - to steal your word - prickly child.

You did the right thing, and you know that. Doing the right thing is hard. Watching them turn into themselves and not necessarily our vision of what we wanted themselves to be is hard.

It's all hard.

It's nice to not be going through it alone.

Lucky Wife/Bookaholic said...

My preteen is entering into that phase, one minute she'll snuggle and relax and then all of a sudden, she remembers she's too cool for me and an instant wall goes up... I never know from day to day...
I understand diffucult decisions... Had to make one for preteen A a couple weeks ago.

Alex the Girl said...

Okay, first of all, I agree with Tammy. It's sinful how photogenic you are, and it's uncanny how much your daughter, although a bit taller (doesn't that just take the cake) looks so much like you! It's the eyes.

I am actually in awe over the fact that you, Anita, and I were basically in the same mindset this week. It does get better, at least until she finds that "boy" friend (he's actually a very sweet boy, she's just wound into him too much and tends to lose her personality..okay, that's another post).

One thing I do want to say before this turns into a poorly written novel instead of a comment. I think one of the hardests (there are so many of them, gah) things to do is to have your child own up to their mistakes and take responsibility for them, i.e. the late alarm clock. Your nature kicks in and wants to fix it for them automatically. Been there, done that, have the footprints on my butt to prove it. Way to go.

Kathy B! said...

I think you should be commended for letting your daughter suffer the natural consequences of her behavior. Giving her a strong foundation, and learning accountability is what will ultimately lead her to respect you and bring her back to you. I think it's intertwined.

Of course this all comes from a woman who's eldest daughter is 11, so I don't have an ounce of credibility here. Just my instinct.

LaRae said...

Way to be so courageous! I can tell it hurt you deeply to watch your daughter suffer the consequences of her decision. For me, this is the hardest part of being a parent. I hate to watch my kids suffer even if they deserve it. If my children could develop into respectable adults without suffering, I’d be there to rescue them from pain or embarrassment, but since growth comes from adversity, I strive to be courageous at least some of the time! Thanks for letting me know it is hard for you to be courageous too!

Anita said...

Pam, I was amazed yesterday that Alex and I had blogged about teens, and I felt so in touch with her and you and others, in that we are in this together. My incident was not negative for my daughter, and she was bright enough to see someone elses (sp) foolishness. Then of course I read Alex's words, and I so understand what it feels like to know a part of my daughters is not with me right now. They are teens and they don't think I've very cool, and they don't always want to be with me, or even want my opinion.
Adrienne is more more prickly daughter, she doesn't really get "close" to anyone. She is so very private and dare I say sneaky almost, it's disturbing to me, because I don't see her developing any deep relationships, but instead a couple of dozen casual friendships. As of late her grades have been slipping just a tad and her infatuation with texting too much has been bothering my dad and I.............but this is a reply, not a post about my own parenting problems.
I think we have to let them stumble and learn consequences, but it's so very hard........for us as much well as our teens.

Gamma Sharon said...

Oh Pam, I do know what you mean! My youngest was my challenge. Very same thing that you described was a constant in my house and more that I won't get into... but I am here to tell you (and there were days, months, years that I didn't think I would live through it) that challenge has gone. And she had to take responsibilty for her own actions lots of times. Some kids have to learn the hard way! She is my friend and a wonderful do anything for you kind of gal now and my heart is still ticking.
And you are right... no one tells you how hard it truly gets when they drag your heart through the mud.
She will grow up and be your very best friend... I just know it!
Both my girls are my world... along with their Dad and my wonderful Boo.
Thinking about you and knowing everything will turn out all right.
Gods Blessings,

Crystal said...

I'll be honest with five kids the teen years scare me!! I added many a headache to my parents lives, but I did come back and now that we are adults I appreciate all they did for me : ) I agree with letting her be tardy, better to let her feel the pain of that bad decision than something much larger. You will have to let us know if she gets up and going better after being late. Blessings to you~

Pam said...

Thank you to everyone who made such nice comments. It really does make me feel so much better and less alone. And I appreciate the validation that I'm doing the right thing and the words of wisdom from more experienced parents who assure me that it will all be ok in the long run. I really needed to hear that. Thank you all again. Parenting really is full of land mines and it's nice to have others helping you find your way.

C said...

Okay, once again I'm the girl with no kids commenting, but I had to say something. I love my mother. She's an amazing woman, and I admire her so much. But I was not nice to her as a teenager. The eye-rolling, the sarcasm, the certainty that my mother was out of touch, and not worth my time. And certainly she was never right. About anything. Ever.

And then I went off to college. And I hugged my mom and dad goodbye, and choked back tears as I realized how much I was going to miss them. And then I got sick for the first time without my mother there. And then I needed advice on how to handle a boy situation. And on, and on, and on. I didn't see her for what she was, didn't appreciate her until I moved out on my own.

And when I came back home, it was like a switch had been flipped. We got along amazingly. We took long walks together talking about everything under the sun. And I realized that my mother the person is kind of amazing. And I love her more than ever.

So this Mother's Day, I found the perfect card. On the front it reads: "Happy Mother's Day to the amazing mom who put up with me for years." And on the inside: "And for years 13-17, let me buy you some drinks."

You know you're going to get that card in a few years, right? :)

Pam said...

Dear, dear C! Thank you so much for sharing a young person's perspective on this. It really made me feel so much better. I can just imagine Katie writing something just like this a few years from now. And when she does give me that card, I will remember what you said. Until then, I will keep this in mind. Thank you so much for your comment.

Gail said...

I can imagine exactly what was done and said...we've got a lot of that with Eric too. I spend a fair amount of time telling him, "I know you are 13 and know EVERYTHING but right now you still XXXX" and I'm sure it is only going to get worse in the next few years. Maia will be something else all together! She's got attitude already and has since she was 2!

As for the consequences -- good for you! It is so hard to stand by what we say but we need to do it anyway.


P.S. I love that they still call your Dad "Grandpa Duck!"

Ms.Emily said...

hang in there.


Pam said...

Gail - No doubt about it, this is a difficult age. And yes all the grandkids call my dad Grandpa Duck. It's very cute.

Emily - Thanks Emily!

Child#2 said...
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