One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"This Too Shall Pass.... But NOT Soon Enough for Mom"

One of my teens -- who shall remain nameless and gender free to protect his/her identity until such time as he/she outgrows this phase of life when I would prefer to send him/her to live on the moon or in Wyoming or any other place far away from me --  is displaying a somewhat typical American teen persona that screams…. “I don’t care about anything or anyone and my family is the lamest most asinine group of people I have ever been around.” 

If you have ever been a teen or had a teen of any age – then I feel sure you know how to fill in the blanks.  This was the polite description of what I perceive to be his/her attitude. 

From this point forward, I will choose the pronoun “she” to describe this teen – but that is only because I’m too lazy to keep using all the gender pronouns throughout.  For those of you trying to figure out who this might be – just insert any of my children.

It all started innocently enough when I decided to go to bed much earlier than usual.  I had just spoken to one of my adult children and she was a little concerned about some of the influences on one of her younger siblings. 

Like a good mom, on my way to my room, I reminded my teen that her computer time ended at 10:00 p.m.  Having just increased this teen’s computer privileges, it seemed like a good time to remind her that I was going to bed and wouldn’t be aware of what she was doing.  I was counting on her to exercise self-control on the computer, as well as with phones and music choices.
Immediately, the grunting and groaning begins as she sighs in frustration and says, “What did I do wrong this time?”

My answer is simple, but the emotion welling up inside me is rage.  It’s not the question, it’s the moaning and groaning.  Maintaining some semblance of decorum I manage to say, “Nothing that I know of.  I’m just reminding you that our goal is for you to exercise self-control, but we will take control if you can’t.  Good night.”

But it escalates anyway.  The teen slams the drawer and gets off the computer saying it isn’t worth the hassle.

I HATE this stage.  I hate looking at my teen’s sullen face and hearing the sighs and mutters and rolling eyes and immediately feeling depressed and angry and frustrated that my teen is blessed with everything a human could actually need to thrive, yet she sees nothing. 

I hate looking at my formerly sweet, sensitive child and seeing a child that makes me want to run the other way. 

I hate knowing that no matter what I say, it will be taken the wrong way by one of us. 

I despise knowing that this will pass, but feeling the passion of the moment and wanting to strangle my child and force her into reality sooner than rather than later.

Honestly, this is not unusual or alarming conduct for me or my child.  But no matter how many times I do it, I can’t even pretend to tolerate it better than the last bazillion times.  In fact, I think it actually gets worse for me every time with every child.  I’m less patient because I know that my teen’s version of reality is a big, stupid, lie that most will eventually dismiss, but not soon enough for me.  And frankly, I’m tired.

But my real concern runs a little deeper.  This teen not only has the normal crazed teen issues, but she also brings with her a history of abuse and loss that far exceeds the normal stuff.  In many ways, I am wrong.  My teen doesn’t have everything she needs to thrive because one key component is missing – peace of mind and resolution of the past.  And this time in her life – the same time that her body is changing and her hormones are raging and her attitude is pathetic – is the same time that she can no longer avoid the strong need to make sense of her past.

This time is critical in the development of any teen, but even more so with a traumatized teen.  What happens at this stage in life will often have long lasting effects.  Decisions about people can impact the ability to develop long-term stable relationships. Decisions about friends can take a vulnerable teen in the wrong direction.  Decisions about school can limit the available options after high school – when the teen has outgrown this stupid stage and is a more rational being.  Decisions about God can bring hope or loss. And hopelessness can lead to suicide.

The dilemma is that even in a stable environment, this is also the time when the teen is least capable of processing, understanding and reconciling their trauma with the current reality.  Emotions are on edge. Impulse overrides reason. Relationships are strained – even otherwise good and healthy ones.  There is little ability to anticipate consequences, real or possible. And the capacity to understand why things happen and adults’ thoughts are still a mystery.  All in all, nothing makes sense.

I literally have been through this stage of development with a teen in my home at least 20 times.  And as a teacher and coach, I have been through this age with literally hundreds more.  Each teen is unique.  Each situation is different.  The issues range from normal teen drama to torture and trauma. But as different as each one is, their needs are so similar.

  • They want to feel in control.
  •  They want to feel unconditional love.
  •  They want to feel understood. And they want to understand.
  •  They do not want to feel alone.
  •  They want to know that no matter how bad they screw up, that people won’t give up on them.
  •  They want to trust the people that they depend upon.
  •  They want to know their role in the bigger picture, even though they have no idea what that big picture looks like.
  •  They want to be trusted to make good decisions. 
  • They want to care, but they don’t want to be hurt.

Of course, there is more.  But these are absolutely critical.  And not just for teens – this is truth for all of us. 

So now that the obvious has occurred to me after a bazillion tries … what do I do with these thoughts?

When I combine this current revelation with what Heather taught me during her short life and through her journals, I realize that:

  •  My presence matters.  Even if I don’t say a word.  (Which is sometimes the very best choice.)
  • I must continue to speak truth into my children, even when it feels like they aren’t listening or don’t care.  But, my actions are far more important than my preachy words.
  •  I need to tell them I love them as often as I tell them what I want changed. 
  •   I must attempt to remain patient and stable and wise as frequently as I am capable.
  •  I must speak directly to my children – even if that means posting a message on Facebook or by texting or whatever way we best communicate without killing each other.
  •   And I must remember, as my wise mom always said, “This too shall pass.” 

Note to self: If I can focus on remembering these underlying needs and doing what I can to help my child find healthy ways to meet these needs, then some of the frustrating issues will work themselves out over time.  And that will allow room and space and security to work out the more complicated issues.

I just hope I can remember this.  


  1. I have only had 5 long term teens, so I am not expected to be as rational as you are right?! I know the answer, I was just hoping...


  2. My formula was very precise.... the LONGER I do this the MORE frustrated I get!!! By that formula you should be almost perfect!! Sorry! LOL

  3. You put everything i couldn't put in works on this artickle. Inspireing insightful. Thanks :)