I had a conversation the other day – with someone whose opinion about such things matters to me – about my recent frustration with my duties as the mother of a teenager.
Periodically, I get to feeling that, despite my very best efforts, what I’m doing just isn’t working. Setting aside the incredible pressure I put on myself to get this mothering thing as right as I possibly can, it’s profoundly disheartening to put as much of myself into this desperately important work and have it feel as if it’s all coming apart, anyway. All my mindfulness and compassion, my understanding of the world and what my children need to know and be able to do in order to function ethically and compassionately in it, and my awareness to teach in a way that honors who my children actually are, not who I imagine them to be feel dismissively ignored – if not outright rejected – and I sometimes feel as though the energy in our family is tending toward toxic.
I’m not okay with any of that. Since I recognize that I can’t see things outside of my own perspective (and I recognize that I take all of this profoundly personally, and that’s my issue to work with), I seek the council of outside eyes to look in on my life and offer some insight and direction I might not be able to come to on my own.
The insight I got from this very valuable conversation the other day is that, to a pretty good degree, I am responsible for setting up this kind of negative feedback loop that my older daughter and I have been cycling through lately. It was pointed out to me that while a not insignificant amount of the trouble comes from age-and-stage sorts of issues, a big part of our trouble may come from the fact that I (and my husband) have not been consistent with the boundaries that we establish and the expectations that we hold. We set up conditions – this thing you want won’t happen until this thing you have to do gets sufficiently done – but we often don’t hold to them. Miss Punkin’ Pie has been allowed to see movies and go to sleepovers and continue to have computer, t.v. and texting privileges without meeting the prerequisites of those things. That has effectively taught her that she doesn’t HAVE to do the things we ask of her because she understands that we’re going to give her what she wants in the end, whether she does them or not, and that’s a very big part of what I’m seeing as a fundamental problem lately.
That’s not her fault, it’s ours, and it’s one that I intend to try to remedy effective immediately.
I’m also taking a compassionate but firm stand against any abuse happening in the household. I understand that my daughter may not always be in control of her moods – that she may not know why she’s frustrated or sad or downright pissed off – and that’s okay. What’s not okay is that she continues to be allowed to inflict those things on us (and especially on her sister). I told her today that she has every right to her feelings – even if she can’t control or understand them – but that she has no right to subject the rest of the family to them. If she can’t be, at minimum, polite and pleasant to the people sharing her house, then she needs to go somewhere where those people aren’t. She’s welcome to her room or the guest room or a bathroom or even the car or the yard if she feels she needs that kind of space, but she may no longer steep the rest of us in her negative energy.
I know she doesn’t understand how desperately I love her, and how much care I’m taking in being her mom. I can intellectualize that this is completely normal, that no teenage girl likes the limits and expectations her family – especially her mother – puts on her, but I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing; it’s clearly not working for any of us.
My goal, then, is to be a better mother than I’ve been. I’m the grown-up in this scenario, and that means that the responsibility is on me to make sure that my children get what they need, even if they may not want it at the time.