Setbacks are hard. Actually they can be crushing.
There are always signs that a setback is imminent, but it’s easy to get somewhat complacent about life. You see the signs, rationalize that it’s not really that bad or that serious. You see the signs; you just deny that you see them at all. You see the signs, and you can’t really stop it so you just hop on the rollercoaster and hold on for dear life.
I saw signs, but I didn’t put it all together until it was too late.
Hope is really anxious about starting high school in a few weeks. She’s also struggling with romantic relationships in ways that are pretty dramatic. She’s also really wrestling with family issues. Now any of these on their own might be enough to upset the apple cart.
I was so busy tackling micro-level issues that I missed how the constellation of issues might be viewed holistically as a sure sign of imminent disaster.
On the upside, I didn’t spend a lot of time this go ‘round beating myself up about being myopic about problem solving. No time to waste doing that mind game.
On the downside, our setback was so epic in the moment of discovery that I was scared that it was going to really, really, really take Hope and I to a bad place.
The difference with this setback is that Hope told me about it on her own. And that…that’s a huge step forward. I try to be honest with her; I do. I try to kick it straight as much as possible in ways that meet the needs of the 7 year old, the 14 year old and the young adult Hope strives to be. She tells me a lot of things, as I mentioned in my post last week. I know it’s edited, but it’s still so much more than what I dreamed of sharing with my parents.
In college I really engaged in some self-destructive behaviors. It took me years to tell my parents. By comparison, Hope told me about some things she tried within 24 hours. She would not have done that a year ago or even 6 months ago. It’s really amazing in these moments to see how far we’ve come.
Yeah, in the midst of new chaos, there is still a metric for progress.
She trusts that I’ve got her back, even if I have to fight her to save her. That’s pretty cool.
In an effort to switch things up and try to alleviate pressure at home while building confidence, I have suspended the chore chart for the foreseeable future. I realized as she was telling me things about herself and things she had done recently, that she can’t handle the things I’d expected of her. It took me so long to get to this realization. I am so sorry that I really tried to make that round peg fit that square hole. Hope needs hope and success, not a spreadsheet/paystub. One day I’ll bring it back, but she simply isn’t ready.
I also realize, that she’s simply unable to manage to keep up with her room by herself. She simply can’t do it. She doesn’t know why, I don’t know why, but my moaning and groaning about laziness and messiness only sinks her into the mess more deeply.
So, I overhauled the way I manage this family, by simply giving her a list of things to do every day. The list doesn’t have much on it; there’s a couple of chores, there’s piano or sax practicing, some sentence diagramming and math worksheet activities, dog walking. The goal is to get more than half of the things done each day. Most of the activities require my engagement, adding to our daily quality time.
I have finally, after 18 months, properly calibrated my expectations to her abilities. And guess what, she is working those lists and accomplishing more every day than she ever did before this week.
I took off on Monday morning to set the house to rights, make emergency appointments and clean her room. Hope was grateful. I tossed a bunch of her stuff; nothing with deep emotional attachment, but things she was hoarding. She never once asked what I did with it. I see her working as best she can to be tidy. I can actually see the struggle, when before I just refused to see it or acknowledge that it could even exist.
Last night, we stayed up late, made brownies and ate them while watching TV. It was a treat. The control freak in me was screaming “You’re staying up tooooooo late!!!” (I imagine my control freak persona being akin to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.) The fun, reasonable mom in me told the control freak to hush, while telling Hope, “Let’s just watch one more episode.”
Seeing her relaxed and giggling while having peanut butter and chocolate brownies at 11pm was worth a lost hour of sleep.
The setback was scary, messy and just traumatic, but ultimately it was allowed us a huge step forward. I have a bit more hope than I’ve had for a while. I’m proud of us. I’m proud of Hope for being courageous. I’m proud of me for being adaptable and finally, finally perceptive.
I feel like for once, I actually got it right.