Archive for December, 2012

Parents and the Teenage Years…Count on Survival

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

While flailing about in the midst of any troubling situation, some deranged part of my brain always attempts to quantify my misery. I have no idea why. But currently, I’m in the throes of “raising-a-teenager” hell, so naturally the question occurred to me, “How many times do you have to tell a teenager to do something before they actually comply?” And I’m not talking just chores, but nitty-gritty things like taking care of their new camera, not leaving their underwear where the dog can get it, not T.P.-ing the neighbors’ homes, and not drinking or doing drugs. Is there some average range – say, between 15 and 20 times – a parent needs to repeat their plea to an adolescent whose mind is far, far away, perhaps at the mall or with their latest crush or weighing weekend party options, before congruent action follows? Maybe there is an even more precise value for this answer. I’d love to know it, because even though I’m basically surfing the tidal wave of teenhood with the last of three daughters, I still have no clue. Of course, I can only draw on instances where my teenagers actually complied eventually, which limits my data considerably…

Take my oldest daughter. Please. (That’s an old one. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.) But really, this one hasn’t spoken to me in over five years, ever since I left her father after nearly 20 years in a codependent and abusive marriage. Now, granted, this was an extreme situation, since she was “vulnerable” during a very difficult period for our family. Nonetheless, five years and counting of parental alienation? Please, honey, turn out better than that after all my long hours and hard work! Ugh, I say. I suppose I should’ve known which way the wind was blowing when at age 12, she was excitedly anticipating her first apartment.

Okay, I’m sure you’re probably forming judgments of me at this point, but stop! I was an über-momma. You know, that overly-sweet, overly-sensitive, overly-forgiving, overly-generous, overly-responsible type. I guess this is how I taught my oldest to walk all over me. Ugh.

My second daughter is something of an angel by relative standards, my “easy one,” as experienced mothers predict there always is among multiple children. The biggest problem encountered with her has been keeping her alive growing up within a community not always wholesome…yes, you guessed it, she went through the California public school system. Fortunately for this one, she is so easy-going that she makes friends with a wide variety of people, some of whom aren’t even law-enforcement-designated gang members. Ugh.

The jury is still out on my last one, who’s still only 13. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say she has invented her own particular brand of issues for me to fret over, which are no doubt training me in the art of detaching and letting kids go through their “stuff” without holding a gun to my head while they do so. Thank goodness, however, once she makes it past, say, 18 years old – or doesn’t make it past, as my obsession goes – I’ll be done with all this crap.

Guess I’m more naïve than I thought, huh?

I figure somewhere along the line, there must be a lesson for me in all of this. But what could that be? That life sucks and then you die? That relationships = problems = struggle = misery forever? That I should never have had children? I suspect, though, that the lesson might be something a little more self-responsible, like that kids are only one area that cause people problems, so if it wasn’t them, it would be some other weird shit freaking me out. I am finally realizing that the answer to all of it is my attitude (damn, I was afraid I was going to say that), the changing of which requires daily personal effort. Ugh.

Since neither lesson in living looks particularly appealing, however, I might as well work on my way of thinking about challenges, thus increasing my statistical chances for happiness. There I go with my numbers again, but somehow they are so calming. Am I mad? By the way, the answer to my initial number question, the one about talking to teens, is infinity. How’s that for a specific and exact numerical response? Say it with me this time. Ugh.