Growing Up and Gearing Up

When my youngest daughter left for the first day of school last month, I was riveted. She wore her new Aeropostale shirt and skinny jeans with her messenger bag and confidently walked up the street.

Where did my little girl go?

Some time over the summer she switched bodies with this coltish young lady who wouldn’t look out of place in an LL Bean catalogue. Not long ago, she was racing down the street as fast as her (shorter) legs could carry her, backpack flapping behind her.

I don’t remember a transition.

Of course she came home and immediately picked a fight with her older sister, and then I recognized her again.

I honestly don’t see a huge difference between the tween and the teen years. The moodiness, the frustration simmering below the surface just waiting for the right moment (or comment) to explode. This deja vu just leaves me feeling exhausted. I can see the next few years of daily turmoil looming.

Is she a little devil…
…or not?

I so do not want to deal with this again. So soon.

We finally got through the worst of it with her older sister and I really, really liked the reprieve.  Of course, now I know a little better what I’m dealing with. Hopefully, I won’t need as much trial and error this time. I still have my parental arsenal of tools, though they may need to be polished up a bit.

The best tools in my arsenal? Communication and patience. They work together. Sadly, I’ve never been great at either, but I like to think I’m improving. (Probably by the time I’m 90 I’ll have it all figured out.)

Problem is, there’s this rule that kids don’t talk to their parents. But how are we supposed to help our kids grow up into decent, productive human beings if we are screeching at each other over every disagreement? Then, resentment settles in on both sides and neither wants to even look, much less speak, to the other. It’s a vicious circle.

That’s where patience kicks in. I’ve made it a personal challenge to see how long I can hold out and talk with the irrational kid standing in front of me who is trying like hell to push all my buttons. (I have a confession to make. The kid sometimes wins. *wince*)

I have to stop here and applaud my husband for good advice, backing me up, and acting as final enforcer when I can’t take it anymore. We make a great team.

Somewhere along the line, we must have done something right.

Our oldest daughter still has her witchy moments, but for the most part, she’s actually pleasant to have around. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to her go on and on over the finer points of the latest horror movie she’s watched or the stories of cattiness within her little group of friends (Ah, the joys of high school drama!). But she also talks about her plans for the future and things that worry or scare her and – here’s the cool part – she actually listens (mostly) to what we have to say.

So, I guess I grit my teeth and mentally prepare for the future onslaught of carnage coming from the diminutive figure of my youngest child.

Wish me luck.

Images from publicdomainpictures.net

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6 comments on “Growing Up and Gearing Up

  1. My girl is 12 going to be 13 in April. I’m starting to see the transition from tween to teen. And every time I pass a picture of the nubby, always smiling little tot she used to be, my heart tugs on the ol’ tear ducts.

    So far the worst I’ve had is some extra attitude when I ask her to do the dishes (or whatever it is *she* doesn’t want to do that day). Oh, and the eye rolling; my gawd, the eye rolling. I’ve found if I mimic back to her an exaggerated version of the response she just gave me, there’s a lightened mood, a smile followed by a laugh. Then I remind her we get what we give, and we have to be conscious of our attitudes / energy directed at others.

    When she’s being particularly snarky, I remind myself that tweens / teens brains and bodies are going through MAJOR changes. Seriously, I looked it up and it’s enough to drive a grown person insane, let alone kids who are dealing with life experiences for the first time PLUS the biology they can do nothing about. I also know they’re like caterpillars in a chrysalis: changing into who they’ll be as adults. Yeah, I give her some room there.

    However our relationship does have a different dynamic than most mothers and daughters, probably because I’ve been the only parent she’s ever known, and I vowed not to parent like my mother did. I pick and choose my battles carefully because, really, is fighting over a messy room, worth it? Or clothes or music? (If I could ban Hanna Montana and Bieber, I would LOL.) My sister never cleaned her room growing up and now she’s a clean freak. She also went through a goth / emo phase and now she’s like June Cleaver. So it’s not like just because my girl refuses to put dirty clothes IN the hamper instead AROUND it, she’ll turn into a terrible housekeeper with her own place. Nope, I “fight” only for the things that really matter (to me).

    In the end, if you’re doing your best then that’s enough. If you’re consciously working to improve communication and patience and being a good parent, then you’re doing more than a lot of parents. This is the hardest job in the world and I commend you for your honesty and dedication.

    You’re lucky: you have a second daughter to parent, so it’s like the first one was a trial run and now you can practice what you learned with her on your youngest LOL.

    If all else fails chant to yourself, “This too shall pass. This too shall pass.” 😉

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    • ekcarmel says:

      Yes, indeedy, I have chanted that on more than one occasion and I joke with my older daughter that she was our experimental child! Laughter does smooth over a lot of stuff. I like your eye-rolling mimicry. Nothing breaks the mood faster than a mirror of our actions.

      Seriously, I’ve suspected the hormonal changes in teens must be similar in magnitude to the hormonal changes we women deal with in pregnancy. From what you said, perhaps it’s actually more. I do give them some slack if I think that’s what’s rearing its ugly head.

      One thing I’ve had to force myself to do is just let the kids vent when they get home from school. I’m a fixer and if my kid is having a problem, I look for ways to solve it. Except that sometimes sounds like criticism. Or else the kid doesn’t like any of my suggestions and gets frustrated and angry. So I had to learn to just listen. Which is sooooo difficult. And ask if she actually wants advice. Sometimes she does.

      Thanks for stopping in, Leah!

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  2. scribbla says:

    Yep – good luck.

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  3. You could luck out with your youngest daughter having a fairly easy time of it. My oldest daughter went through a barely noticeable transition while my youngest daughter more than made up for it. Sometimes I think it was harder with the second one because I expected the same thing. Boy did she show me how wrong I was.

    My parenting style is a combo of yours and Leah. It really helps to pick your battles; in my youngest daughter’s case if I had not it would have been total misery on a constant basis. I concentrated on getting homework done plus a few other items that were high on the list then did my best to ignore the rest.

    However, if we had a fight I apologized first if I felt I was in the wrong. If she was being particularly ‘witchy’ then she was given the option of apology or staying in her room. It worked for both of us and still does. It is gratifying when she comes and apologizes without me having to say a word.

    My best to you and may this time pass as fast and painless as possible.

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    • ekcarmel says:

      You and Leah both mentioned picking your battles and I completely agree. Otherwise, as you said, life would be a constant misery. We have a simple “homework, then chores, then you’re free to do what you want” rule. The oldest figured out fairly quickly we stay off her back as long as she’s done what needs to be done first. The youngest is my dreamer and tends to drift off easily, so she needs reminders.

      Apologizing is an important skill. From my experience it seems that very few people know when and how to do it or they make it a very insincere type of thing. So, when I mess up, I apologize. And if the kids don’t think of it on their own, I remind them they ought to do the same and why. I agree, it’s really cool when when one of my kids comes to me on her own to apologize.

      Many thanks, Angela. Sometimes all it takes is knowing we aren’t alone.

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