One of the toughest parts of adopting an adolescent kiddo is figuring out how to balance the need and desire to establish attachment by pulling the child close and the need to facilitate and foster the independence associated with being a teen and drop kicking kiddo out(ish). It’s a tough balance.
I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort really trying to do the attachment parenting thing, and I can say that it’s made life at Casa d’ABM better. Lots of time together, lots of patience, lots of deliberate effort to meet Hope right where she is. I’m really trying to pull her close, ensure her safety, and strengthen our relationship. I can see the fruits of this labor; less grumpiness, more willingness to be agreeable, less general upheaval in the house.
As I do this pulling, Hope’s friends are getting dropped off at the movies, at the mall, at the ice skating rink and anywhere else teens get dropped these days. Hope doesn’t get invited—like ever, but I try to make it happen with the few friends she has. It is normal for her to try to kick me to the curb sometimes. But she doesn’t; in fact she begs me to stay. Then I am on the spot to be present but invisible, but somehow cool all at the same time. I worry about when she will develop some independence and be on par developmentally with her peers. And when will I be able to just drop her off and come home and enjoy a glass of something until time to fetch her. (*Not so secretly hoping to regain control of my couch and remote on Friday nights…..)
I know it’s not a competition, but it’s hard not to compare Hope to other kids so that I can have a sense of what she might be doing if we had always been together, if she had been my biological daughter. I find it makes me sad that her life has been such that she’s stunted. I mean, what I’m dealing with here is a bit more than just “late bloomer” stuff. I find myself wishing her classmates would genuinely befriend her, that they would just invite her to hang out, that they would give her a chance to learn how to be a good friend. Watching Hope wrestle with this developmental hurdle has been hard; I know she’s lonely. I also know that she can occasionally wallow.
I also feel like there is a lot of feelings between both of us with me being both mom and proxy for a bestie. I mean, there have been seasons of my life when, without question, my mom was my bestie, but this is different. I always knew my mom and the privilege of having grown up with her allowed me the freedom to reclassify her as my friend as well as my mom. I know that Hope and I will hopefully get there one day, but for now, I am not sure how I feel about being both mom and best friend. I just want to be a space holder for a bestie, until she can develop the capacity to really nurture a friendship along such that evolves into a bestie situation.
I never thought about how much effort goes into being a friend until I watched Hope navigate these waters. It is another thing that I’ve spent a lifetime taking for granted—I am very social and I make friends easily. Over the years, my job has had me on the road a lot, I went back to school and I became a mom. All of these things made me assess friendships and either work hard to maintain them or realize that the friend season was over with certain folks. But it was a luxury to just make those calls. I see my daughter so thirsty for genuine relationships. I try to teach Hope good skills so that she can be a good friend, but we are really behind the 8 ball—Hope’s emotional age is simply not the same as her peers and the capacity for the level of friend sophistication of high schoolers is pretty far above her head. It’s like watching a 4th grader hang out with some high schoolers. Cute for the first couple of minutes, painful for the remaining 58 minutes of an hour.
So for now, all I can do is pull her closer and try to help her feel safe enough and loved enough to let herself learn how to be appropriately social with her peers. I’m hopeful that we will work at this and succeed such that I don’t have to go to her senior prom with her.
Been there, done that…got the flamingo colored (I called it ‘coral’ back then) dress and dyed pumps to prove it. (You *know* you want to see that lovely one-shouldered confection with the drop waist…because 90s!)