Tag: teens

I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not cry..

“I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not cry..”  I saw that on a t-shirt one time with a punchline at the bottom that read… “because I am the teacher, I am the teacher, I am the teacher.”  I think of this because right now I feel just like yelling, screaming, and crying… but not because I am a teacher.  I don’t seem to have the same emotional responses to any behaviors in the classroom that I do at home.  No, I am having these emotions because I am the mother, I am the mother, I am the mother.

I need to keep reminding myself that I am the mother so that I do not get swirled into a vortex where I come out on the other end as the peer or the sibling of this oppositional and willful child/man who is living in my house.  So that I don’t say mean things to him just because he says mean things to me, so that my behaviors are not motivated by retribution but by loving and firm parenting and teaching.

I dreamed the other night about Alex.  I dreamed that he was 2 and I was putting him into time-out.  Even in my dream he was oppositional– getting up and running out of time out and mocking me with his facial expressions.  In the dream, I keep putting him back into time-out and telling him that I am adding another 5 minutes to his time for his refusal to stay in time-out.  The content of the dream is not the compelling factor, however, as much as the age he is in the dream that is telling.  Alex is not two and it has been nearly 16 years since he was two years old.  He will be 18 years old on May 12th of this very year.  In 72 days, he will be technically an adult [he will be able to vote, purchase cigarettes, sign documents as an adult, and will be entitled to all sorts of other adult privileges].  I will also be technically absolved of parental responsibility.  I will not be held liable if he makes poor choices, and I will not be required to support or even house him.

Of course, I this is all completely irrelevant since my child is completely dependent upon me.  He does not have a driver’s license because he never really was interested in getting one enough to pursue it.  He does not have a job, and has only held one summer job in his life [which he held for approximately 3 weeks].  He has not graduated from high school.  He quit school and began an online high school program in which he has already been put on probation twice for not completing the required 12 hours a week.  He is supposed to wash his own clothing, but he very rarely does.  It just piles up in noxious piles in his room.  He eats non-stop, but he does not wash his own dishes or even remove the dirty ones from his room unless reminded repeatedly or threatened.

This afternoon’s exchange went something like this:

Me:  Alex, my house smells like cigarette smoke.  You’ve been smoking in here again when I asked you to please not smoke inside this house.

Alex: No, I haven’t.

Me:  Yes, you have.  I can smell it.

Alex:  No, I told you I haven’t.

Me:  Why do you have a McDonald’s cup with ashes and butts floating in your coke from last night if you are not smoking in the computer room?

Alex:  I don’t know.

Me:  Do you think I am stupid?

Alex:  [no response]

Me:  Why do you tell me that you are not going to smoke in the house and then go ahead and do it anyway?

Alex:  I don’t know.

Me:  I need you to get that cup out of here and clean the ashes off the computer table and open the window and then spray in there.

Alex:  No.

His defense is that he is depressed.  He says he cares about very little and I need to give him time.  He says I am contributing to his predicament because I simply nag him constantly.. that I do not interact with him positively, but spend all of my time interacting with him telling him what he should be doing or scolding him about what he should have done but has not.  He is tired of me and I am tired of him.  We are at a stand-off or perhaps a crossroad.

Sometimes I write in order to make sense of my world, well, actually , often I do this.  So, I have no pithy way to sum up this entry.  I only have an overwhelming feeling of impotence in terms of how to help motivate him to move forward.  I am not sure whether to go tough love on him or whether to be understanding as I shape his behavior using some sort of innovative behavior management techniques.  I have no idea which way to proceed, and I am frankly tired.  I want to hire someone else to come in here and do it.  I want a miracle.  I want my prayers to be answered faster than they are being answered.

Under my wing

So, today I was having a bad day.  I was angry at my 17 year old son, which is a common state of being for me these days.  I was angry at his lack of motivation, his failure to help with anything around the house, the way he ignores his responsibility and lives completely from his id, and with the general disrespect he has shown me on occasions too numerous to number in the past few years.  I asked to speak to him in the living room.  I asked for the conversation in neutral territory because of some advice I had read in some parenting book that said I should not ‘attack’ him in his space… that requesting time in a neutral space is a better choice.  While I waited for him to decide to actually get up and comply with my request [which, trust me, he does in his own meandering time], I headed to [where else?] Facebook.  I was led straight to a status from a good friend I used to teach with where he offered a link to his wife’s blog and an interview she did with their preschool daughter.  I read this interview with such pleasure that I virtually forgot the onerous task I was waiting to confront.  I smiled at her answers and scrolled down the page to read another entry about a recent bout at the emergency room in a foreign country after this same preschool girl, called Ladybug in the blog, had swallowed a hair clip.  This narrative was so real and so funny, I got lost in it.  In closing, Sheila references a portion of a Psalm that offers a bird or angel metaphor and relates this to mothering [or parenting].  An excerpt from this blog follows:

After Ladybug was x-rayed and the doctors pronounced that she will be OK and the hair clip will pass on its own (and she threw up a few more times at the hospital), she came home to spend the night throwing up here.  My momma heart was so broken for her in her pitiful state and I was reminded of how our Heavenly Father is compared to a momma hen in Psalm 91:

He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

When I have done something stupid (like swallowing a hair clip), or am sick and pitiful, my Heavenly Father wants to tuck me under His wings, much like I tucked Ladybug under mine last night.  It was a long, rough night, but I’m her mom.
And as much as she has worn me out lately with bad decisions, bad behavior, and bad attitudes, I would never deny her the spot underneath my feathers.
When I got to this part of the blog, I dissolved into tears and the cold anger in my heart melted instantly away.  I literally sobbed, wanting then only to take my son into may arms and hold him.  You see he has reasons for his awful behavior, that I sometimes forget.  The main reason is that he is a teenager and he is wearing his insides on his outside.  But there are other reasons….  His dad and I separated when he was 12… in case you are wondering… a terrible age for this to occur.  When he was 13, his Dad moved away and headed into a disappointing mid-life crisis that he weathered by acting out in anger in every direction.  When he was 15, he was able to behave so badly that I sent him to live with his Dad.  This turned out to be a blessing, because they built a needed bridge and made some wonderful memories.  But then, when he was 16, his Dad was killed in a boating accident while on vacation, and my son’s life was turned over and shaken upside down again.  This all happened to his brother, who was 22 when his Dad died, too.  But for this child, who has always felt things deeper than most and who happened to be this very pivotal age, this tragedy upon tragedy almost did him in.  He has a bad attitude almost every day, he makes  bad decisions, and behaves badly, but I am his mother.  And no matter how old he is, I can tuck him under my wing.  Tonight, because of reading this blog, I did just that.  When he came into the room to talk, I received him differently than I would have before  my watershed moment.  Coincidence?  Well, I don’t think so.  In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this was an answered prayer.  So tonight, after this ‘bad day,’ I am grateful for my children, even the one with the bad attitude, for friends, for words, for insight, for faith, and for a change in perception that came at exactly the right moment ✠