WHERE DID MY SANITY GO?
There’s nothing like raising a teenager to make you doubt your sanity, your intelligence, even your self-worth! It is amazing to me how 1 person can have such a profound impact on our sense of who we are. All of a sudden I find myself wondering if I really do know anything about life. Have I really even lived at all? Do I really know what I know? How could I have survived so long being so stupid?
Sound familiar? Yes, this is the same child you rocked and fed and adored, the same child you played ball with, that you made cookies with, whom you read countless books to, that you stayed up with all night when they had a fever. But somehow all of those loving feelings fly right out the window when the teenager wakes up in the morning (or should we say afternoon), and is furious with you because he thinks you lost his favorite shirt in the laundry. But that is nothing compared to his wrath if you should bring up his grades or his study habits at the wrong moment. It is as if you never went to school, never took a test, and you don’t know a thing about him!
To be fair, not all teenagers are this bad, and most of them are only this bad sometimes. It’s the sometimes that are so tough to deal with. It’s a lot easier to deal with a 2 year old throwing a tantrum. They don’t have the vocabulary and the knowledge that the teenager does. Teenagers are smart. They know where our buttons are and how hard to push them. They have learned a little bit about the world and throw out just enough information that make us doubt our own argument and our own perspective. And then we either fight back and get into a raging argument that goes nowhere, or we run to the closet in tears, hoping no one else sees us.
There have been a couple of things that have helped me through this difficult stage. The first thing is to remember that this is exactly what teenagers are supposed to do. They are supposed to strike out on their own, to find their own voice, to pull away and become more independent. It helps me to feel one step ahead if I can say to myself “perfect, he was supposed to disagree with me. He is right on track”. Thinking those things also helps me not get caught up in the content of what is being said, especially when he/she is attacking me where it hurts. Internally I have a voice that reminds me that my child is healthy and growing even though it is not pleasant on my end. When children are overly compliant and voice no opinions of their own, that’s when there is a problem. These are the kids who are more at risk to succumb to peer pressure and do things they don’t necessarily want to do because they have no practice at speaking up and having an opinion. When I remember this, it makes it easier to let my kids practice arguing with me. I know that this will help them find their own voice out in the world.
The other thing that has helped me is the mantra “they are not for or against me”. I know that sounds really simple, but it has been a lifesaver for me. So often I take things personally, as if a person, a situation or an event is either for me or against me. “The reason it rained is because someone didn’t want me to go to the lake today. The reason I didn’t get that job is because someone wanted me to learn a lesson.” Sound familiar? It’s the same with a teenager. “The reason he is yelling at me is because he hates me. The reason she tried alcohol is because she wanted me to look like a bad parent.” That line of thinking is a bunch of nonsense. It had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with the teenager’s normal developmental stage. The teenager is not for me nor against me. She is for herself and finding out who she is as an individual.
I am not suggesting that anything really makes it easy going through this difficult stage, but keeping in mind that it is a normal stage, even a positive one, and to stop taking it so personal can help make it more bearable. There is another side. It will pass. Keep breathing. Cherish the moments of peace because they are there, sometimes we just forget to notice them.