Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 273--The Devil Wears Jean Shorts and a Cute Mudd T-Shirt

Pain level--2-4 today (4--end of day and right upper quadrant)
Anxiety--5 to 6

So adolescence is definitely upon us in this household.  I have been told previously that "Fourteen is the new sixteen" and that things get better after that.  Adolescence with attachment disorder is difficult for sure.  I am hoping and praying that somehow God knows how this will all work out, and the end picture involves acceptance for all of us--me for my son's disorders and for my son, acceptance of us as his family.  It is amazing to me that even from 1400 miles away, his biological family just never settles down and acts, well, normally.  No, instead now they've tried to introduce his birth father back into the equation through facebook.  How freaking clever!  Have bio dad send the kid a message promising his love and adoration!  As though it was just yesterday that he saw the kid, and now he wants a relationship because he's always loved him.

I honestly doubt this man could pick my son out of a lineup, even though they share the same gene pool.

Regardless, the adolescence I'm referring to tonight isn't my son.  It's my twelve-and a half-year old daughter, who up until recently held me in pretty high esteem.  According to her, I was funny, smart, and pretty.  I looked "so pretty" in makeup, had the best shoes, was fun to be around, and basically rocked the world.  Don't get me wrong; we've had lots of times where we've disagreed, or she's grumbled or cried about how unfair I am, or how I don't understand, or how I love her brother more.

And trust me, the love affair went both ways.  Just as she found me to be amazing, so I found her.  She's clever and smart, has a sarcastic quick wit but a compassionate soul.  She can be devious and mean one minute and lovingly affectionate the next.  She was my perfect little girl.  When I say that, I don't mean perfect in the sense of never making mistakes.  Instead, I mean she is perfect in all her imperfections.  She is a child of God and is exactly how He intended her to be.

But over the summer, she has been increasingly pulling away from me, setting up that teenage wall of angst.  Her mother doesn't understand her.  She'd rather watch on her ipod or talk to friends on Facebook.  Late night daughter-mother sleepovers no longer hold the same appeal, nor does running errands or doing a whole lot together.

I'll admit, it's hard to hold a candle to somebody your own age, going through the same experiences.  Friends who share the same doubts and fears are far more attractive to her than her mom.  After all, I don't "get" her culture or her experiences.  She's right.  I'm not a middle school kid in 2011.  But she's wrong too--I've been a middle schooler before.  I know what it's like to fall behind on your work, to feel like your work is dragging you around, to question if you're wearing the right thing or doing the wrong thing.  I know what it feels like to be crying one minute and thrilled to death the next.

Yesterday was a huffy day.  If you've had a middle schooler, you know what this is.  It's the day where every comment or request is met with an eye roll, a "hmph" or an "Oh my Gaaawwwwddd!"  My short reprieves were our lunch date, in which she chose the restaurant.  That was it.  Today was much the same; she didn't want to go with me to run errands.  She wanted to stay home on her ipod or the computer or television.

The obvious solution is to limit her screen time, period.  But it's not going to solve the problem.  The problem is that she's gotten older and smarter, and she is trying to assimilate into her peer group.  Unfortunately, the invitation wasn't for two.

I was eleven when I began to separate from my mother.  As I've posted before, my mom was never really one of those moms who talked to me a whole lot.  I knew she loved me, but I didn't know where I fell on the priority list.  My guesstimation was somewhere between "work" and "sunbathing".  In retrospect, I think my mom was just really self-involved.  I always prided myself on having open conversations with my children and had somehow managed to convince myself that my relationship with my daughter wasn't going to be difficult during the teen years.  Oh sure, there'd be some disagreements, but not the slow progression of shifting from "my world is mom" to "my world is my friends".

So tonight we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday.  My daughter was sporting her little denim shorts and a "Happiness, Peace, Love" black tee made by Mudd.  Her long hair was still damp from the shower and you could see a natural curl appearing that has never been there before.  First, she asked if we could go to a different restaurant (because my birthday dinner is all about her, right?).  Then when we had to wait for a table, the huffy evening commenced.  She was hot.  She was thirsty.  There was nowhere to sit.  She was tired of standing.  She didn't want to wait.  Once we were finally seated, she settled down.  Thank goodness we had a pleasant dinner, because I really didn't want to follow through with my consequence of taking her home for unpleasant behavior.  I just wanted my dinner!

Afterward, we swung by an ice cream shop to pick up a treat.  As soon as we got home, she picked her treat and headed to her room and her ipod, calling, "I'm going to bed, see you later."  No hug, no kiss, no goodbye or happy birthday even.  I sat in a chair and realized the late night sleepovers were still happening.  I just wasn't included.  That sudden realization hurt.  I didn't go get her or bother her, but I cried.  I cried in my chair at the realization that I no longer have a little girl, I have the awkward makings of a young woman, and in order for her to grow I needed to give her some room.

So what does mothering an adolescent look like?  I have no idea, which sounds funny since I already have an older teenager.

This is what I think:  she needs the opportunity to have privacy but she also needs to be acknowledged for who she is and is becoming.  She needs me to be involved, but as a figure in the background.  She needs some freedom to practice making good decisions with her friends and firm expectations and boundaries from her parents and her community.

Mow I have to figure out how to go about making those things happen.  When she was younger, we had a routine of lighting a candle each night, talking for a few minutes, then making a wish and blowing it out.  I think this might be where to start.  Maybe a weekly date with each of my kids would be good too, and more involvement in their social lives as a chauffeur and a host.

Maybe I'll blog some more tomorrow about this.  I come to some great ideas when I write.

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