Hope turned 16 this weekend. It was a fun filled weekend with lots of quality time, shopping, family and good eats. I went a little overboard on the gifts, but it was fun and 16 is a significant birthday. She seemed to enjoy herself; she relished under the nearly non-stop glare of my attention. I catered to most of her whims—including agreeing to vacuum the walls and ceiling of her room in order to eliminate possible bugs in her room. She was a delight to be around; seemed genuinely happy to be the center of attention. #nosurprisethere
During the course of the weekend, I asked Hope how she felt about turning 16 and did she feel like she was 16? She replied that she felt like she was 3.
I thought at first she was joking, and while she might have been a little tongue in cheek, it was about the truest thing she’s said. I talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist regularly, and Hope’s emotional age is much younger than her chronological age. It isn’t 3, but it is in the single digits. Grammy was with us when she responded; she was speechless.
I thought the response was interesting for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we just celebrated our 3rd family-versary. Could she have been born again when she was adopted? Maybe, I guess.
I know there are times when she is very much like a big threenager. She’s taking a break from her ADHD meds at the moment. We made it through one store reasonably well, but then we went to Target. She expended all of my reserve energy with one sprint around the store. Target = #overstimulation. So many things to see, notice, comment on, show me, touch, sniff. I swear to God that Yappy does not sniff at the dog park as much as she was distracted at Target. After a 15 minute visit, I told her I needed to rest for a bit. I asked her how she felt—anxious, excitable, jumbled, having a hard time remembering all the things she saw, swearing she didn’t say things she did. It was maddening, and a challenge for both of us.
I told her that sometimes I think she acts like a 5 year old, and she laughed.
I totally meant it.
Sure she has come so far; she has matured emotionally a lot, especially in the last few months. Her ability to vocalize her feelings has really come a long way. All told though, Hope is still emotionally very much behind her peers.
As she enters her 16th year, I wonder what that means for her. She spent her birthday with me and a family friend. There were no friends to invite. There was no party. There were no dates. And while that might be true for many teens; I wonder how long Hope will be in this space. I will always be here for her, but I wonder when she will be able to develop healthy friendships with peers who will provide her a kind of support that I can’t. I wonder when she will desire some level of independence. I wonder whether she will have any healthy romantic relationships.
My curiosity and worry about Hope’s future isn’t new though. The fact that my daughter sees herself feeling much younger than she is chronologically is new. The self-awareness is growing, and as it continues to develop I’m hopeful that it will help her catch up somehow. I know it won’t be overnight, but I hope it speeds up. I Hope that she will get closer before she graduates in a couple of years so that she has the joy of experiencing some meaningful high school rites of passage. I want my daughter to suck in all the life she can. I recognize that she probably just wants to suck in all the normal she can, and her normal has double backed to a time when she didn’t have what she has now.
For now, I have a sweet 16, 3 year old who at least knows she’s a 16-3 year old.
I guess that’s something.
June 27th, 2017 at 9:04 pm
Happy Birthday Hope, however old you might be!!!
June 28th, 2017 at 2:31 am
Threenager = brillliant term. I have to remember that!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: So much of what you write resonates with me. It’s like you’re writing about me and my (16 year old) girl.
This past weekend we were with family at a house that has a pool. She kept wanting me to watch her jump in the pool and would get frustrated if I looked away. It’s not like she was doing amazing tricks or anything–she was just jumping into a pool. But it meant the world to her that I watched her jump and then commented on it afterward each time. Total threenager time.
June 28th, 2017 at 6:47 am
Interesting and I can totally see her making that connection of being born again when she was adopted 3 years ago, making her feel 3 years old. It’s strange because many of us feel like we were never born at all (newborn closed adoption) where her feeling 3 is quite symbolic to the time frame she’s been with you.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOPE! ❤
June 28th, 2017 at 10:05 am
Happy Birthday Hope!
I think they do gradually catch up. At 16 my daughter was probably about 11 or 12. She graduated high school at 19 and she was probably emotionally about 16 then. Now, at 22, I think she’s about 20.
However old Hope is, she has a safe place to grow and that’s a wonderful thing that will give her the chance to mature the best she can, at her own rate. 🙂
June 28th, 2017 at 12:31 pm
I think that shows a LOT of self awareness!! Don’t worry – she’ll catch up eventually, thanks to all of the support and nurturing she receives in the village you’ve built for her. Happy birthday and happy famiversary!
June 30th, 2017 at 3:59 am
Happy birthday! And how thoughtful of her to think of her life starting anew 3 years ago..
July 1st, 2017 at 6:24 pm
Happy birthday to Hope. I am impressed by all the progress you have made with your “threenager.” Enjoy the cake!