“I have many times been driven to my knees by the utter conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” ~Abraham Lincoln
I have not blogged consistently for the past few months. To say my current reality during this timeframe has been rather chaotic and stressful, may be understating it a wee bit. You see, my 17 year old turned 18 late last year, and my world has been in utter chaos surrounding this milestone.
Everyone knows that raising teens is not easy. Having already weathered many teen storms, I thought that as she approached 18, the worse was behind me. I really began to enjoy her at 17. It seemed that her teen revolts were fewer and I saw maturity begin to set in. I thought she was finally “getting it,” understanding many things regarding life and our relationship seemed strong.
The past six months have been a struggle as I try to maneuver through the depths of this chaotic teen journey into adulthood. Not only is this a difficult period for her, but as her mother, I am catapulted into a transition I thought would be just that, “a transition.” Silly me, I thought a transition meant that there’s time to adjust. Believe me, there has been no easing into this life’s episode! It has been a catapult into enemy territory; only come to find out, I’m the enemy.
In rebellions of prior years, they were short lived because I was able to eventually reach her by relentlessly pursuing opportunities to open up dialogue. Opportunities to do this were plenty, since outside of school, she was always available for concentrated one-on-one time. I could speak to her and eventually her hard shell would crumble and the familiar honest core was standing and ready to talk. But now, all that has changed, with the introduction of a boyfriend.
I understand that a teen proclaiming independence is in the natural order. Part of that is her desire to be in relationship with someone who she can experience feelings of love for, outside of her family of origin. Despite knowing this, I have felt the painful tear of my heart breaking, when she seems hell bent on tearing down all I have carefully and lovingly built with her throughout the years. The trust, the communication, our strong bond, all swiftly severed as she pours all her energies into her boyfriend. My feelings are akin to mourning the death of an 18-year relationship.
The rebellion builds strength and holds steady month after month. Still I walk, sometimes limp, through this topsy-turvy chapter of my teen’s life. I am human, and alone to handle this my spirit crumbles, as if to say, “Enough!” When I’ve reached my human limits, and cannot find an ounce of energy left to deal with the next drama, I summon beyond me, the power of God’s strength to fortify me and lift me up. I remember, when I am not able, “God is able.”
Last week one evening, alone, amidst a quiet house, I stood in my kitchen grabbing a quick bite. Unlike other times when peace resonates in this quiet gap, frustration, disappointment, sadness, and fear, burst into a medley of chaotic trajectories, much like the flight of a thousand firework rockets gone amuck. Tears burst forth from the gates of strong parental reserve as all these emotions took hold of me. Weak at the knees, feeling like I have no more reserves left to fight on, I cried out to our Heavenly Father, “I cannot do this alone any more! This is breaking my heart! Lord, I have had enough with all this. I am exhausted! I don’t know what more to do. She’s your child, I cannot do for her what you can. She needs you. She needs your guidance and wisdom. I surrender your child to you. All things are possible through you, so I let go and give it all to you.”
The next evening immediately following work, I was on my way to a women’s service at church. She called me and was audibly tearful and upset. She said, “I want to tell you something because it’s too hard to keep it inside and I want to talk to you about it. But please don’t judge him (her boyfriend).”
You got it! She hasn’t shared with me in such a long time, so the last thing I want to do is come across judgmental. With a teen it is quite the eggshell walk, to insure her heightened sensitivity doesn’t misread parental words or tone. She was under a lot of self-induced pressure, thinking she needed to make an immediate decision whether to break up with her boyfriend. I tried to offer her relief from this artificial deadline.
“You don’t have to decide that now, or today, or this week for that matter.”
I suggested I could pick her up to go with me, but she said, “I’ve been crying and praying for an hour. I look a mess! I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”
Her words were sweet harmonious music to my soul—The Blessing amidst the chaos. I am grateful that in her suffering, she reached out to God and then to me, rather than reach out to the wrong people or to distractions that only serve to compound problems and undermine her spirit. I can celebrate that!
Though I’d prefer we are back to “normal” and she’s done with her rebelliousness, I realize we will both have to adjust to a “new normal” as she navigates her independence, and I navigate the new dynamics of my relationship with her. A successful outcome requires that I too do some growing.
“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be.”~Morris Adler
Beyond the things I have no control of, lie the things that I do. And that is when regret slinks in. There are plenty of places to find regret and self-blame, if one retreads the past. I am mindful that I do not want to dwell in this low energy place that is guilt. Moving beyond guilt, I settle into self-reflection in order to correct my parental course.
What do I mean? I look at her behavior and look for the clues therein, which hint at a teaching moment that did not stick, or something I completely neglected to teach. Sure there are always reasons why I did or did not do something, but rather than get mired in the excuses, I believe there is still time to redirect course. One area I discover is that I have given her many privileges without teaching her that she must earn them. At 18 she wants to be treated as an adult, so I honor that request by informing her that adult responsibilities require that she get a part-time job while attending school, so she can pay for her vehicle’s gas and insurance.
Included in this redefinition, still exists the need for me to maintain parental boundaries while she’s still living at home. And for that reason, moments of resistance continue. However, lately she has been a little more receptive to talking.
I have not forced dialogue, and have tried to listen more and speak less. I have stopped interrupting her, instead giving her the opportunity to fully express her thoughts without me rushing in to offer unsolicited guidance. What I am discovering is less a child, and more an adult as she explains complex thoughts and observations regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and self-discoveries about herself as a result of this relationship. I am in awe of what I am discovering is her universe within.
When she expresses thoughts that I believe do not support her ultimate good, I have to try to understand what she means rather than imposing my parental will. She is in control of her choices and if I appear not to respect that, this will shut down communication. I suggest things or make observations, but then let it go, realizing she will have to make the decision. I have to let go of controlling the outcome, even if it is to spare her pain.
As much as I love her, as helpless as it feels, I cannot prevent her from experiencing failure. Failure is a great teacher and I cannot rob her of her life’s lessons. But even this is a delicate balance. When do you step in to intervene? Recently I grounded her so she could spend that time filling out applications for College (tick-tock-tick-tock). With about 2 months left before she graduates High School, taking care of this priority was long overdue.
And so it goes. I look to God for stamina in the months ahead.
“…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” –Isaiah 28-29
Ella VeneziaCopyright © 2012 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.