One thing Chw and I have been spending a lot of our one-on-one conversations about, lately, is the fact that we aren’t perfect parents and we are ok with that. While that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t daily strive to be better parents, or better spouses (which in turn makes us better parents), the one thing which became blindingly clear to us in recent weeks is that it doesn’t matter to us whether our 15-year-old likes us or not.
I never imagined I would feel this way. I grew up in foster care and always knew that my kids would LOVE me and think I was absolutely the coolest mom ever. That’s just the way it was going to be. And now that I have a teenager who spews rage at me on a regular basis, just for fun, I’ve realized I don’t really want her approval. I’ve seen the things she prioritizes in her life, and some of the people she approves of or things she thinks are cool. These are categories I don’t want to fit into, but thanks. Incidentally, she also takes every opportunity to point out how disapproving she is of our parenting techniques…
Specifically she has screamed and thrown things because I am “verbally abusive” and she knows it for a fact because she has “asked her friends, and they confirmed what I do is abuse.” When I asked her what it is I do, she proceeds to point out things like:
– tell her when her zipper is down, or her pockets are sticking out. (when I asked if I do it discreetly she bursts into tears and says “yes, but I’m so tired of you tearing me down that way!” When she finished the dramatics I said “then why not let your obvious frustration motivate you to check your own zipper and pockets from time to time?” To which I received a hateful look and was called a profane name. alright then…)
– I scream at her. When we hashed this out, it turns out I scream at her to “stop” when she is hurling insults, back-talking, arguing and won’t stop. Her voice is far above ours and she is incredibly hateful and I will scream at her to “STOP!” When I asked her how, in this scenario, she wasn’t the verbally abusive one since she was the one hurling insults and saying cutting, hateful things while yelling at her parents, I get the “You would say that, wouldn’t you?” response and glare.
– We “nag” her. (By “nag” apparently it means we remind her over and over to chew with her mouth closed, give her warnings about behaving in school because the school called AGAIN, pick up her messes and stop back-talking.) How dare we!
So… When we repetitively point out that no, these are not abusive things, these things are called PARENTING, she will plummet into her 4 times a week rant about what an awful mom I am. Crappy to hear? sure. But a little comical too.
On one such recent festive occasion, (we are both so tired of these near daily events, sorry for not blogging more, my goodness is drained…) I just looked at her and said “Do you believe we need your validation or approval to get by? Do you honestly think we are just hoping you approve of our parenting?” She was shocked. I continued, “You are 15. Not only do you have no idea how to be a parent, you have no idea how to be an adult and you especially have no idea what we have been through or what it has been like along our parenting journey. When you have a decade of the experience we do, under your belt, I’ll value your input on my performance and what you have to say. Now? Now your opinion is based solely on your selfish whims and desires.” Did it solve the problem? Probably not, but it gave her food for thought.
She’s also always telling us her one friend “really likes us” or “was excited to see us.” It’s all lies and we couldn’t figure out why she kept telling us these things until these conversations between us started, so I added that to the mix. I said “And Gen, we don’t care if your friends approve of us or like us either. Your friend’s opinions of us mean absolutely nothing to us. I don’t need their acceptance or approval.”
This was an idea she could not comprehend, which felt awesome… And hopefully, also makes her think a little.
Awhile ago I read an article or something that said “when your teen hurts your feelings, they may not be aware of their actions. Articulate “thank you for hurting my feelings by _____________. That was really painful.” And maybe this will spur them to take responsibility for their actions. So, the other day she said something really awful to me and I tried it.
Her response? “You’re welcome,” Saccharine smile. Shocked, I texted my husband who couldn’t believe it. Later that night, he was home and the fun continue. She said something else and my knee-jerk reaction was “ouch, wow Gen, thanks.” And she did it again, “You’re welcome.” Sickeningly sweet smile…
A couple of hours after our talk about not needing her approval she said to me “I don’t like what you said. I think my opinion of the type of parents you are should matter more than even yours does. That makes me feel… I can’t even explain it.”
I smiled at her, “Like you aren’t in charge? Like you aren’t above us? Like we are the parents.”
I walked over and hugged her close and guess what I sincerely whispered in her ear?
You’re welcome… (someday she will be grateful, but we don’t need her to be. That’s another thing we’ve realized. Someday (I hope) her opinion will be different and she will get it.)
And someday she will have a teenager and I will laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed before, and maybe I’ll say it again, but that time just for fun: