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Friday, October 17, 2014

"I see other families that seem perfect and happy, and then I look at mine."


On the Q&A Carol asked the following question:


Nancy-

I'm having a hard time with my 15 year old daughter. When I have lunch with other moms, they talk about their teens and I just sit there thinking, "Her daughter's worst day is better than my daughter's best!" She doesn't do anything too bad, like drugs and sex, but she is strong willed. By strong willed, I mean that she doesn't like listening to our instructions and she argues with us about everything. She is rude to adults sometimes. 

I bet you didn't see my mother of the year award, 'cause I sure didn't get nominated. I have definitely yelled back at her, said some things no teenage girl should ever have to hear (I don't want to talk about that.), and I have made countless impulsive decisions. I hate saying this. I have thought to myself many times, "what the heck have I (done) to create this monster?" Around the clock I am begging for God's grace. I am not qualified to be her mother. 

I am at loss for words for how I feel. I see other families that seem perfect and happy, and then I look at mine. 

What is the secret formula to getting through those tough teenage years? Are all teens like that? Is it easier with the second, third, then fourth teen? Like I said earlier, I am not qualified to do this. What do you do with the strong willed children?

The timing of your questions hits me square on the head, Carol.  I have a dear best friend who I've been meeting with weekly for the last couple months. We seem to both be dealing with some pretty big stuff lately, (like big ginormous stuff) and have been getting together regularly to cry it out, be a voice of reason, assure the other that we are not going crazy and that we are continuing to do the best we can even though if we're honest it often feels like that's not nearly good enough.

You say, "She doesn't do anything too bad, like drugs and sex..."  I'm sure you are a very wonderful and approachable woman, but I hope you appreciate that a mom whose child does do drugs and has lots of sex, would have equally hard time confiding her parenting issues with you or anyone for that matter!  She's not likely to share these difficulties around the lunch table with other moms. So much of it is perspective.  Around that lunch table, we are all trying to put our best foot forward and/or hide the really hard stuff.  But because I've been so open on the internet with the issues we've encountered, I've been very surprised by what other moms have shared with me.  There is an anonymity to sharing the hard things with a blog stranger.  So what I've heard has assured me that I am NOT the only one to be faced with these teen challenges. And I assure you, neither are you!  It's just not talked about very openly because it is so so hard.  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure that there are wonderful moms that do have it all together with few to no problems. Moms that do have all the answers and do it all right... although I haven't met her yet.  I'm sure that there are teens that grow up with little to no boundary pushing and eye rolling.  Although I haven't had one yet.  But I really believe that the majority of families have their fair share of issues, yet on the outside, they look like they have it all together. But we know that life isn't always like what it looks like on the outside.  And the inside stuff isn't shared casually, nor should it be.  Our teens, just like us, have the right to fail without it being broadcast.  I would expect nothing less for myself after all. 

So Carol, what I'm trying to say is that in reality what's being discussed around the lunch table, (or at a PTO meeting, or over coffee or insert any event moms get together here) although it may be the truth, isn't necessarily the WHOLE truth.  I remember when my children were younger and the discussions between moms were quite different.  We shared the tribulations of raising younger children more easily.  
Biting
Defiance
Throwing sand at another child
A struggling student
The short comings of young children are easier to talk about around the lunch table, maybe because these tribulations are expected and are still considered a part of growing up and not a reflection of parenting.  And heck it's often cute when they're little.  I will easily tell you about the time our Patch was in 1st grade and was following a little girl who was climbing the ladder to the slide.  When she wouldn't go up (fast enough?) he bit her on the butt.  It's sad, and it's totally wrong.  And it's also kinda funny! 

But will I tell you now specifically what we deal with in raising teenagers?  
Will I tell you about drug abuse, sexual experimentation, promiscuity and self injury?  
No.  
Will I tell you about the amount of money spent on counseling and the nights of tears, decisions to medicate or not and inpatient treatment centers. 
No.  
Will I discuss around the lunch table suicide, eating disorders and punching a hole in the wall... again.  
No.  
No longer are the mistakes of teens considered a regular part of growing up. Somewhere along the line these actions become a reflection of not only who our child is but of our parenting skills. And that's not something soccer moms are going to talk about in casual conversation.  (The above scenarios are all things that I and my closest friends have dealt with recently.)

All this to say that I think what you're experiencing is more normal than you think.  Not fun but normal.  In in the face of such stress I too have failed miserably.  I have yelled.  And felt the guilt right along to go with it. I have said and done things I regret.  And I've tried to change my ways... only to fail again.  We are moms, not saints, and we are fallible especially when confronted with repeated mistake, lying, in-you-face aggression, insolence, defiance, hostility stress.  

But I do know this, (and maybe I'm talking to myself here more than you or anyone else!)  God picked YOU to be her mother, and God does NOT make mistakes. You are the perfect mother for her, faults and all.  He has given you exactly what you need to be the mom your daughter needs, faults, shortcomings and all.  As for forgiveness, try to do better with all you have, get help when you need and keep parenting with all you have.  Isn't this exactly what you ask of your daughter after all?  You don't expect your daughter to be perfect, and as a mom you are not without fault either.  But rather than be perfect you want her to own up when she makes mistakes, ask for forgiveness, ask for help when the going gets tough, then keep living life, learning, growing and developing into a young woman that's not perfect but learns from mistakes and makes herself and her world better because of it. Role model that with all you have!  Own up to your mistakes, and ask her to forgive you when you mess up.  Do better the next time even when it's hard.  Especially when it's hard!  You may not see it reflected in her for years to come, but it absolutely will sink in.  They will hear what you say even if their actions and words don't reflect it.  And with patience, repetition and time, your parenting pays off eventually.  But you do have to keep at it. 

I also know that there is no secret formula, Carol.  A fabulous support system, a solidly rooted marriage, a firm foundation built in the 12 years before they become teens all definitely help, but I wouldn't go so far as saying it's a secrete formula that assures smooth sailing in the teen years.  We've had 3 teens so far, and will be adding a 4th in the next year, and I cannot tell you how HUGELY different our experiences with all 3 have been.  and no, it didn't get easier.  All of them have had trials, that have put us through the wringer, but in very very different ways.  And like I said, I'm sure there are teens that go through puberty and growing up under smooth sails, but I think they are rarer then it appears on the surface and we certainly haven't had that experience.  

Remember that friend that I told you about in the beginning.  As we talk at our weekly meetings, we are constantly in a state of shock that the "issues" that we encounter with raising our teens, are far from the ones that we thought we'd have to deal with.  We mentally prepared for what we though would be the worst case scenario, and we even subconsciously made game plans to deal with those issues.  But part of parenting is the unexpected crappola that pops up out of nowhere to throw your parenting for a loop.  And OH MY HANG ON TO YOUR SEATS when it does. Because not only is it a big deal, but mentally as parents we were totally caught off guard and left with the emotions of denial, embarrassment, anger, frustration, fear, resentment, exhaustion and total hook-line-and-sinker love, all rolled into a ball of parental stress. In addition to keeping your marriage strong, the next thing I recommend is to go to a GOOD friend, and I mean your very bestest friend, (maybe it'll even be relative, your mom, aunt, grandparent... that you TRUST with all you have and can confide in and will be honest with you.  One that you love and one that you knows loves you and thus your children too. You know the friend because she's the one you can tell anything and you still feel totally safe.  She's also the one that risks by sharing with you.  I'm a firm believer that without reciprocation it's not a balanced relationship.) and talk to her.  She loves you and your children after all and thus has your children's best interest at heart.  

I don't think I'm any more qualified to deal with strong willed teens than you are. I don't think any of us are, Carol!  There's just too much prepare for when parenting teens in this day and age.  I totally feel like I'm wingin' this parenting thing most all the time.  But I have come to an acceptance with the wingin' it feeling.  I do my best.  I own up when I'm wrong.  And I try with all I have to do better the next time.  And in the end, that's exactly what I want me children to learn to do! 

And a glass of wine and looking at pretty things doesn't hurt either!  So even though it's totally unrelated and because it's my blog so I can post totally unrelated randomness if I want, here's a pretty thing to look at.  

If you'd like to ask me a question and get your own totally random answer that may or may not be relevant to the original question you asked... click here.

25 comments:

  1. Same goes for adoption. It is sugar coated to make it look easy, on behalf of the orphaned. Someone needs to step forward and loudly say "ADOPTION AINT EASY!" I admire it when women will step forward and say that.

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    1. **stepping forward and clearing throat***
      ADOPTION AINT EASY!
      (funny I was starting to write the next Q&A about that one! We have like minds, Erin!)

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    2. ADOPTION AINT EASY!
      ditto that.
      There is so much more to adoption than not looking like your child, or telling her that we do not know about her birth parents. What about the attachment? The relatives and friends that don't support your decision to adopt? The tantrums? Surgeries? Food therapies?
      It's not giving birth to a child who happens to be Chinese.

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  2. I remember the days of the "bigs" being teens. It felt hopeless, like they would not have futures because of their behavior as teens. It gets better! It always does! Based off of where they are now, you would never know they had issues as teens.
    Our youngest "little" is twelve. She will have her moments (years?) and everything will be groovy in the end. Because the littles were adopted, we will have to tweak a few of our strategies that worked on the bigs.

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    1. Thank you so so much for adding your thoughts, anonymous. It's SO important to hear from someone who has been thought it and it now made it to the other side. I do also agree, that with adoption most all of it will need to be tweaked. but that's okay because
      we're just wingin' it anyway. It's far from a set recipe!

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  3. As a mom of a tween who seems to have a talent for pushing all my hot buttons, esp. lying and arguing. I learned I needed to turn myself inside out so as to "not go along for the ride". To remember (once I calmed down) to separate the behavior from my unconditional love for my child. To also remember my own struggles through the teen years. How the arguing, defining myself by pulling away from my parents, the turmoil of mixed emotions, the limit testing, the self hatred a teen can feel that causes him/her to lash out - all these "un-loveable" traits are temporary, the relationship is not. I've read that its when your child is acting the most "un-loveable", well, that's when they need it the most, your unconditional love. Easier said than done. Not lecturing, just sharing thoughts. ;0)

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  4. What do you think of the Duggar family? Are they actually as they appear? There teens are perfect. I cannot imagine their teens doing what my teens have done.

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    1. I think they'd be the last family to air their children's short comings in public and I don't it's nearly as neat and tidy as it appears on television. An inherently part of being a teenager is pushing boundaries and learning where the lines are drawn. So yes I think the Dugger teens do that. I also think they choose not live in a secular world and that changes the playing field entirely. And IMO living in that bubble has serious limitations although I do think it reduces a lot of the risks. Not that it's right or wrong, it's just different. We don't prefer to limit our children by removing them form a secular world. And that thus there are bigger risks. With big risk comes big rewards and a greater understanding of the world we live in.

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    2. Then again I could be totally wrong. It's happened before!

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    3. Jennifer & Nancy -
      I think the Duggar's way of parenting does work. I have chosen to raise my children in a secular world because I know what a ministry that can be.
      It's not necessarily uncommon for families to remove their kids from a secular world like the Duggars. BUT the one and only big reason they have made such a positive impact is because of their show.

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  5. I cannot express my gratitude for this. I wept after reading this.
    My husband is the sr. pastor if a church with a congragation of 2,000. Given the circumstances, there is pressure to be a perfect parent.
    My daughter is 15. She suffers from severe depression/anxiety. We cannot simply put our happy faces on and preach a sermon on God's goodness and blessings after being screamed at hours before. On the outside, we do appear as the perfect family.

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    1. Ann,
      We are a homeschooling family, and there is much pressure for our kids to dress modestly and be apart from the secular world. I haven't chosen to raise my kids in that fashion. Just know you are not alone in this.

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  6. I will say it! Adoption isn't easy! It looks amazing on blog and while I wrould do it all over again. No one tells you that you can't leave your child with a sitter because it puts her in shear panic or that she doesn't sleep at night. You have bags under your eyes from the lack of sleep and people mistake you for a raccoon. You hit the nail on the head. Parents don't share the bad stuff because they are embarrassed and are afraid that it will be a reflection on them and their parenting. Teenagers are just plane stinky.

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    1. So well said. We need to be honest with prospective adoptive families about adoption, and for the sake of the orphaned. Before we adopted Esther, I would scroll through blogs and think "this looks like a piece of cake. I can easily do this."
      Nancy, I'm eagerly awaiting that blog post.

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    2. Tiffany, can you remind me... which blog post?

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  7. "No longer are the mistakes of teens considered a regular part of growing up. Somewhere along the line these actions become a reflection of not only who our child is but of our parenting skills."

    Have things changed from the days when we ( or our parents, or our grandparents, etc) were teens? Did our / their parents face some of the more difficult challenges that parents today face, such as drug abuse or suicide? Or did they simply not talk about it?

    Anyway, oncecagain thank you for a good dose of common sense advice.

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    1. docjim505, I'm not sure if it was the same or different a generation or two or even more ago. But I suspect it was the same and folks talked about it even less. That was how many things were dealt with back then. Illness. Adoption. It wouldn't surprise me if the hurdles and shortcomings of us all were dealt with much more privately.

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  8. Well said. Everyone needs someone to tell the hard stuff to. This goes for adoption too. On my blog, it looks so easy and why not bring home another child if it's that easy. While adoption and teenagers are very amazing blessings, we need to step forward and say IT AINT EASY.
    We need to step forward, unashamed of our teen's behavior. They DO mature.
    Which is another thing I dispise about the courtship system. It expects teenagers to be perfect. Expectations that not even a Duggar can meet. The basic philosophy of courting is: If you have defiance and anger as a teen, you might as well forget ever having a happy marriage.

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  9. Thank you once again Nancy for making me feel that I am not alone. I am not alone in this parenting journey of the difficult teen years. It is HARD! So many others are having the same trials but it is so easy to feel like we are the only ones going through it. By God's grace we will all get through it! Thanks for your honesty and encouragement!

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  10. Raising a teenager aint easy.

    Ps hurry on the adoption blogpost. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Mommy with a Canon, can you remind me again... what topic re adoption did you hope I'd get to?

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  11. Parenting a teen is not easy. We are not alone in any of this. It is encouraging to see more mothers stepping up and admitting that their children have shortcomings. We all fear that our kid's behavior is a reflection of my parenting.

    I was wondering, do you read your kids texts?

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    1. Tiffany, it's a great question and maybe I should write a whole post about it. Long story short, we've told ALL our teens and kiddos once they get to that age of cell phones, computers, texting, and all things technology that we have the right to check on their well fare any way, any shape, any time, and any how we need too. I need to know all my children's passwords for all devices if asked. And at any time, we can sit down with you and go through what you've been doing on the cell phone, or computer... and we've done it. So yes, I have read my children's texts. Now does that mean I do it all the time. No. Their past behavior is what we base it all on. Some don't hardly need to be checked on. Some need to be checked on a lot more than others. Some only have seasons they need to be checked on and learn faster than others. Some times they know and sometimes they don't. But we love them enough to check.

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    2. I wish I had made that clear with my teens from the beginning. They act like it is unconstitutional to look over their shoulder.

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