I realized something recently. Hope’s epic disaster moments are easier for me to handle than the more routine dumb stuff teens do.
She doesn’t clean her room for a week, and I lose my ever-loving mind. It is one of my biggest pet peeves.
She’s finds herself talking to an internet predator and insists on lying about it in the face of damning evidence, and I can find oceans of patience. #iamthepacific
Maybe the latter moments just matter so much more that I deep down know that I have to keep it together.
I actually realized this months ago, but this week’s internet episode brought it into focus for both of us.
I’ve wondered why the day to day, routine stuff gets under my skin so much. They are more pet peeves and indicators of basic levels of respect, I suppose. The day to day stuff just infuriates me so.
Staying up later than bedtime. Not getting at least half of the chores done. Privileged expectations about getting material things (amazing how quickly kids can get there). The messy bedroom.
These are the kind of things that drive me nuts. No matter how much effort I expend to chill in some of these areas, they simply make me snap.
But the big stuff? It’s like I can stand outside of myself watching the scene unfold and go, “Keep your wits about you. You totally got this! Werk, girl, werk!”
This week’s internet fiasco was uncovered during a random device check (more about the Constitution of ABM in a later post). And there it was, in all its hot mess, terrifying glory.
“So who is XX?”
“Hmm, what? A friend.”
Friend, my arse.
Higher level investigative questioning initiates. Answers are shady as hell and full of poorly constructed lies. I’m scrolling through and targeting specific texts for more in-depth analysis. Inside I am shaking because I know what I’ve stumbled on to. I’m angry, but I’m more scared than angry. I manage not to yell.
“So you don’t know him. And do you think this violates the primary rule of this whole device thing?”
“Uhm…” Mad and still lying. How is she mad??? My inner mom has pulled out duct tape and is desperately trying to hold me together.
I commence to start threatening texting the suspect and wipe her devices’ hard drives after searching everything.
And then I just dropped the conversation to give her some time to wrestle with her demons. Later, over Costco pizza and hot dogs, we talk about the hows, whys, and her social and emotional struggles. I got the whole frightening story over a picnic table at Costco and kept it cool. #lawdicant #holdmebackholyhomeboy
I saw my young teenager, and I heard Hope explaining her desperate need to be accepted and cared about by her peers. The thirst is real. I saw and heard how hard it was for her. I saw her drop the mask and the lies and just be vulnerable. I was able to tell her that I saw her and I heard her. We talked about what it meant to be vulnerable and to be discerning and how to develop skills of the latter so she was less of the former.
Because she doesn’t have a “good girlfriend” to tell her that her butt looks bad in those jeans or that she needs to change social tactics, we created agreed upon scenarios when I will code switch and play that role until she develops a friend relationship that can fill that need. She hasn’t called me by my given name in 18 months; now, if she calls me by that name, that’s my cue to code switch.
We role played some social situations, right there at that picnic table in Costco. She told me she was only a 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 on a happy scale. I got her to tell me some stuff that would get her to at least a 3, maybe a 4. We got goals, folks, we got goals.
And we still have so much work to do.
By the time we went for froyo, we were in an amazingly good place. I rarely severely punish in these moments. The punishment consequences just wouldn’t get her where I need her to evolve to, so they are an exercise in futility. She apologizes profusely for more than a week, more because she still harbors a fear of being rejected by me because she does dumb stuff and is thus dumb rather than because she actually did the dumb stuff. Wiping the hard drives and locking down everything is a more productive approach for us right now.
I probably bought myself some currency for future yelling about the mayhem that is Hope’s room or how she notoriously runs late for breakfast during the school week. I really hope so, since right this moment I’m trying to get her to get that room together before we go out for the day and I’m about to lose it (again).
I wish I could handle the routine stuff as well as I handle the big stuff, but I think that the big stuff will simply matter more in the long run.