Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Mamma Thursdays when it’s all about us! The mammas!
So does it help to be older when your kids become teenagers? I really don’t know. I mean, I do see some of the younger mothers and their responses to their teenagers, which is they lose their patience a lot, or they let them do whatever they want just to get them out of their hair. Those seem to be the common responses. But I also see some that really attempt to maintain communication with their children and try to guide them.
And where do I fall in all of these? I’m 54 (well, I will be 54 in September), and the twins are officially turning thirteen this June; Dora will be turning thirteen in September. And frankly,
communication seems to be the biggest challenge at this stage. I would love to tell you that it’s me — that somehow, I’ve changed. But it’s not me. It’s them. They have changed.
My biggest communicator, and my easiest child (‘cause she was always such a communicator), was Emmy. Now, she always used to tell me what’s going on in her life and we would explore different options when she was having challenges. But then about nine and a half things started changing and have continued to change. Now, there are periods in which he gives me a blank stare. How’s your day going? Blank stare. Are you upset? Blank stare. Is everything alright? Blank stare. And I don’t know how to respond to this blank stare.
Now sometimes, I get the blank stare and a shrug (which you would think would make it better because now she’s communicating two ways, but really doesn’t!). It’s very frustrating, and my biggest challenge is not to become frustrated to keep asking questions!
My other challenge is when Emmy tears up but gives no answer. I can see you’re upset. What’s going on? How can I help you? Tears. Is there anything I can do to help you? More tears. And of course, sometimes I lose it on that one because I want to help her. My frustration is with the fact that I can not help her. I still haven’t been able to accept that I won’t always be able to help her. And the funny thing is, that once I know what’s going on, I feel free to give her the space to solve her own problem. But when I don’t know what’s going on, my mind races ahead of myself, thinking of all the worst possible scenarios.
Of course, she swings from the blank stare and shrug and silent tears to being very communicative — which I love! I love it because
at least I know what’s going on in her head. What she’s feeling, and if there’s something I can do to help. And sometimes, helping (once I know what the problem is) is very easy for me because all I have to do is be supportive.
Andy is a big challenge for me. Unlike Emmy, who is an extrovert (yep, an extrovert with silence and blank stare!), Andy is an introvert. So Andy really likes to keep to herself. Now I’m an introvert myself, so you would think that I would relate better to her. But I don’t. Actually, the fact that she’s an introvert makes it even more challenging.
Now in the past, she has often complained that I talked with Emmy a lot. But it’s because, for the most part, Emmy does seek me out. Does attempt to talk to me. Andy, on the other hand, loves to lock herself in her room — and then complain that I don’t talk to her. So I do make an effort to go to her room and ask her how her day is going, what’s going on… I even joined TikTok so that I could see her cosplays. And boy, let me tell you, she’s pretty creative. Very creative in fact! You can tell that the artistic side of our families has flourished in her.
But even when I make every effort to listen to her, she complains that I don’t listen. For example, she recently shared with me that she’s into Wicca. And so of course, like almost every woman in The United States (well, at least in California), I was into Wicca when I was a young woman, too. So you know, I start asking her questions about the female divine, and does she know about Sofia and what does she know about Mary Magdalene, and is she more in tune with nature and how does she view the female divine?
And of course, she hugs me and she appreciates that I accepted this because, yes, we still church every… Okay, I’m not going to say
every Sunday. I’m gonna say about three Sundays out of the month when there isn’t a pandemic and services are taking place. And then when she goes upstairs, she complains to her sister that I quoted a whole bunch of Bible verses to her. I did not! Why does she do that?! Why does she reinterpret everything that I say? It’s like we’re talking and I think we’ve made a connection but in fact, I was speaking Chinese, she was speaking English, and somehow, we missed it!
And to be honest with you, I find it incredibly upsetting that she thinks that I’m not going to accept her choices. I accepted that her choices in life are going to be different than my choices in life. She has a completely different experience. And thank everything divine out there for that fact!
I’m glad that she doesn’t come from an abusive home. I’m glad her mother isn’t perpetually depressed. I’m glad that she isn’t moving once or twice a year. And that’s not to say that she is not living in challenging times. But she’s very much loved and protected and both my husband and I do attempt to understand. So why does she want to be misunderstood because a lot of it is that. She wants to be dark, and misunderstood, and different.
Let me tell you, she doesn’t need to be those things to be different. My God, this girl is such an independent thinker! She’s such an independent actor. And she definitely has a way of thinking out of the box — except when she wants to be in the box; when she wants to be like every other misunderstood teenager out there in the world.
And she’s also taught me that my children can hurt me. She loves to complain about me on social media, although she has recently
stopped because I explained to her that I find it hurtful. Why was she complaining about me on social media? Well, back to the “she’s misunderstood and unaccepted.” But maybe — maybe — as I sit here talking to you, and in the process of transitioning from Andy to Dora (which hit some of the same things), this is part of that individuation teenage process. They need to feel misunderstood in order to find their own moral compass. Their own purpose in life. Their own direction in life.
Now Dora’s biggest complaint is: you’re never on my side. And this is really hard for me because when she arrived at our home, she was a very offensive girl. Let me define offense for you: She was always looking to be mistreated. She was always looking to be wronged. She was always looking to be left out. And she behaves as though those things have happened, even though they did not happen. So it wasn’t that she was defensive, it was that she was always on the offensive. Constantly. Perpetually.
It made relating to her so difficult, especially for the group of friends that hung around together. She was also very physical. Her biological mother and I used to talk about this. She was extremely physical because that was the culture where she went to school. The kids were very physical with one another — they pushed each other, they egged each other on — they were just more physically aggressive. It didn’t mean that they fought each other or they attacked each other but there was that physical aggression that just wasn’t commonplace with my kids or their friends. So when they first met her, they were like, whoa! Personal space! Personal space!
And so trying to make that adjustment was incredibly difficult for her. And no matter how many times I said, “Okay, yes, this is tetherball, yes, I understand that you want to win, but hey, you’re
playing against Lily who is two feet shorter than you. You can’t hit the ball that hard because if it lands on her face, it’s gonna hurt like a mother! And you can’t hit so hard because then, it’s not a game. You’re basically playing tetherball by yourself. And the purpose of the game is to interact with somebody else. To have fun with somebody else.” It took her a while to get that.
Also, despite the fact that she’s the tallest girl in the group, a lot of the other kids got their periods first. And do you remember what that was like? You felt that you have become a woman. And you have this love-relationship with your period. On one hand, it meant that you have grown up and that felt great. But on the other hand, you hated it and wanted to complain about how unfair it was that boys didn’t get a period. And you certainly didn’t know what to do with cramps, or with leakage, or was it a big deal or wasn’t it a big deal? And in the beginning, it’s always a big deal. Let’s face it — you feel so different, you feel so strange. It was like an out-of-body experience.
Now, a year later, all of the kids that had just gotten their periods back then are like, meh, not a big deal. Now I understand why mom kept saying it wasn’t a big deal. But back then, it wasn’t the case. It was brand-spanking new! And of course, they only wanted to talk with the kids that also had their periods. They had something to share. Something that was common. That out-of-body experience that you can’t understand until you are going through it or you have gone through it. So Dora was excluded from those conversions.
Also, because the girls that did have their periods were embarrassed. And so they only wanted to speak to the girls that could relate to that embarrassment. Dora was not very sympathetic
to what the girls were experiencing and in fact, she was jealous that she hadn’t gotten her period. I kept telling her, “Enjoy it while it lasts — once it starts, there’s no going back!”
But she wanted to be part of that group. And any time that the girls that were having their periods separated themselves from the group to talk about what was going on with them, Dora was certain that they were talking about her! In fact, any time that girls separated, any time that the girls were talking about something in private, Dora felt that they were talking about her. And by girls, I don’t mean just the twins — I mean the twins and their friends.
So Dora would behave as though she were being attacked and would go on the offensive. So for a while there, none of the group of friends really wanted to be around her. And it was a battle to help Dora understand what the problem was. The biggest part of the challenge is that when she comes to me, and she talks to me about what’s going on and I attempt to ask her what’s going on, you know, to say, “Okay, have you looked at it from this perspective? What makes you think that they’re talking about you? Maybe they’re talking about other things.” Her response is always, “You’re not on my side! Why are you taking their side?!” I’m not. I’m not taking somebody else’s side. I’m just trying to help her grow up and see that it’s not always about us! It isn’t. Just because two people have separated from the group, they’re having a private conversation, doesn’t mean that they’re talking about us! We are not the most important thing in their universe!
And being on her side doesn’t mean I have to agree with her. It means that I have to support her in the process that she’s going through. Support and be understanding. But I can’t agree with her when a.) she could be wrong, or b.) she is wrong. My job as a mother
is to love her and support her — not to agree with her. But here we are in this vicious circle where she gives me the same, and we go through the same process where I’m trying to get her to see things from a different perspective and she refuses.
So yes. Yes. I do feel insane. Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way expecting different results. But in this case, I don’t know what else to do. And before you ask have I read books about how to communicate with kids? Yes, I have. Have I spoken to a therapist? Yes, I have. They both keep indicating that I’m doing the right thing. But to me, it feels like I’m hitting my head against the wall.
And I think this is the most frustrating part of being a mother of a teenager. You have to arm yourself with an extra abundance of patience. And we’re human beings — we have other things going on, other stressors going on and that patience isn’t always there or available at our disposal when we need it the most. And we have feelings too — something a teenager doesn’t seem to understand. So I do keep it in mind that often when they hurt my feelings, they don’t intend to but it doesn’t mean that they don’t do it. And they do need to understand that they’re doing it. But they need to understand that they’re doing that without me becoming defensive or going on the offensive.
So here I am, arming myself with the patience that I’ve always had, hoping that I don’t exhaust it (when I often do), and periodically giving myself time outs so that I don’t do something or say something that I will regret.
My question to you is, what do you do? How do you keep your sanity as our kids become teenagers? How do you handle these situations? I would really love to hear some new and creative ideas. So if you have them, please do share.
So I have an announcement to make. Due to my increasingly crazy schedule, and the fact that I’m beginning a new podcast, Homeschooling With Dr. B, starting in July, I will be cutting back Older Moms to once a week. Thursdays. I’m keeping Thursdays. Mama Thursdays. It doesn’t mean that I won’t discuss things related to the kids (let’s face it, they’re my life) but time constraints limit me to once a week. I hope you will stay with me in this new format!