It's not that my daughter knows Japanese, but she might as well have. Suddenly it's like she and I are speaking two different languages.
It's official: I've hit that stretch of relationship with my daughter where she repeats the following words at me like a mantra and declares during every conversation I try to communicate with her "you're not listening to me" and "you don't understand."
This should be simple. I set the rules and the expectations and she meets them the first time I ask and at a minimum with no more than one reminder. Puhlease. It was simpler to put a fucking man on the moon.
I was reading an article online in Psychology Today entitled Teens and Parents in Conflict. They pretty much summed it up:
"There's no point in talking to you: you don't understand me. You don't even know me."
"A teen spits these words at a parent,
who is hurt and outraged. How can her own child say these things? She's
worked hard to know her own child, learning to read his feelings from
voice and gesture, learning to place his words in the context of his
day-to-day life. How can her own child now say to her, "You don't know
who I really am.""
"Nothing shakes a parent's confidence as much as the onset of a son's or daughter's adolescence. The communication that flowed easily, with words, glances and touch, becomes a minefield."
A minefield. What an accurate description. While brushing my teeth before bed last night, I was thinking about her online high schooling. Aries switched schools seven weeks into the semester and has had to make up that seven weeks (since online school works at a different pace) so she's been doing twice the work this semester.
The problem is while she was good out of the gate, the last month she has been off. Way off. Granted the winter break fell in there but our agreement was take one of the two weeks off and work the second week. She took week one off and couldn't get her motor started in week two. And prior to the holidays she'd been sputtering.
She had been communicating her hours and I was logging attendance and approving assignments but it turned into trying to figure out how many hours she worked because she took so many breaks (breakfast, then a long bio break, then lunch, then whatever other distraction she could pile on). Being her learning coach turned into policing. It was a constant stream of reminders to get her assignments done, get your required number of hours in, stay focused, turn that TV off.
The agreement before online school was that since this was online school and not home school, she needed to carry her load and get the work done without putting me in the position to have to dog her to get it done. Be the young adult that she is and be responsible. I'm a parent, I knew that there would still be reminding and dogging but at fifteen and a half years old and this being an alternative to attending Bully Central High School, I was hoping she'd realize this was a privilege and get it done.
The girl who wanted to achieve her AA concurrently while in online school (which is possible with online school) has now become the girl who can't focus; a girl who's lost the fire in her belly.
When I walked into her room last night after brushing my teeth, it was to talk to her in a way that was heartfelt. To share with her in two or three simple, loving sentences of where I was at with online schooling. Nothing complicated or bitchy. Which I did.
It was met with exasperated sighs, eye rolls, and being told over and over that I don't understand; that I'm not listening. We continue the conversation as she tries to explain that she's been doing better this week (she was at here Dad's Saturday through Wednesday and only did the number of assignments due for one day) and it's not fair that I'm not recognizing her work.
I try to explain the end of the semester is coming and the number of assignments she has to turn in daily is non-negotiable and that she needs to stay on track. She tells me I don't trust her to get it done. Well, no, based on evidence and her track record as of late, I can't "trust" that it will get done. I explain that I can't wait until the 11th hour too see if she stays true to her word. I have to, as her learning coach, communicate with her daily about her school work and do everything I can to ensure she's successful. Then she reminded me again I wasn't listening and didn't understand.
'Round and 'round we go, where we stop, nobody knows.
I end up in tears because I'm doing all this with no support trying to do the best I can. I'm the only parent working to give her everything she needs and all I'm asking her do is meet her commitments. She's crying because she's misunderstood and every word I'm speaking to her is somehow being translated into her mind that she's a fuck up who can't get it right.
Going back to that Psychology Today article:
"Arguments with parents can often be understood in this context. While
those common teenager/parent quarrels, which explode every few days,
are, at a superficial level, about curfews, homework, housework, and
respect, a teenager's real focus is on a parent's acknowledgement of his
maturity and capability and human value. "No, you can't go out
tonight," cuases more than a glitch in a teen's social diary; it implies
that a parent doesn't trust him to make his own decisions. And, in a
teen's eyes, that's not only unfair; it's humiliating. Even apparently
minor exchanges can trigger major reactions, making a parent feel that
"everything I say is wrong!" A parent asks a checking-up question, and
the teen feels like a little child again. "Have you got your keys?" and,
"Do you have enough money for the bus?" are loaded with the
implication, "You're not able to look after yourself." These questions
would be easily tolerated if uttered by a concerned friend, but from a
parent they pinch on a teen's own doubts. Feeling threatened by the kid
who can't remember to take his lunch, his keys or his money, he blames
the parent for reminding him of the child-self still residing within
So let me get this straight. A teenager's real focus is on a parent's acknowledgement of his
maturity and capability and human value...so somehow I have to figure out a way to say "get your work done" all while not making her not feel less than for following up. If he "blames
the parent for reminding him of the child-self still residing within
him" how then do I broach these issues. It's my job to get Aries ready for the outside world; to get her ready to fly on her own which means we practice at home until she's ready to go out into the world. I just can't ask her to do something again or do better or push harder because it'll upset her?!?!
Everyone says parenting is the hardest job they've ever had. But for right now pretend I've pulled my chair around right in front of you and I'm knee-to-knee with you I've take her hands and I'm leaning in and looking unblinkingly into your eyes. Can you picture it? Now hear me when I say, it's the hardest fucking job you'll ever, EVER have. Take the toughest job or thing you've ever had or done and multiply it times ten thousand. There's no rule book. There are no easy answers. You literally guess until you get it right. IF you get it right. It's frustrating and makes you want to pull your hair out in patches. And just when you think you've got it figured out, BAM! your kid becomes a sullen, snarky teenager who stays in her room and can hardly stand you. The pisser is I have a really great kid so imagine my shock and horror when the tide changed.
Oh yeah, it's rewarding too. Blah blah blah. This post isn't about that.
Somewhere there lies an answer to all of this. It's going to be up to me to learn how to cope with this and alter the way I deal with her keeping they "why she's behaving this way" in the back of my mind. It's a good thing women are more evolved than men because I'll tell you right now, she'd never get her father to put in the time I am. He'd stay pissed and throw his hands in the air.
It's no wonder teens go off the reservation. There's this delicate web of complexity that if you don't pay attention to it, you're kid will end up on Dr. Phil talking about how she was a truck-stop hooker with a heroine addiction giving blowies for a pack of smokes.
I hope if she heard anything I said last night it's that a.) I am proud of her and that b.) sometimes we have to take our own inventory and be honest about what we're doing and that c.) if you put in the required hours and do the work then no one can say anything to you. There's beauty in that last one. It keeps the boss off your back, you stay under the radar, and you come across like a superstar that always gets it done.
In the meantime, I'll stay on my quest for answers. Or patience. Goddess knows without either one of those two I'll be buying my plane to see the good Dr.!