Adolescence has struck our home. And since we have two, the chances are lightening will strike twice. I’m new to this stage of motherhood and since I was the first of my friends to have kids and some of my buds have decided not to have them as of yet, aside from a kind ear and the fact that we went through adolescence there isn’t much advice based on experience in my close circle yet. I know what I know from growing up a female, and although I don’t want to discount that, my own childhood is a bit fraught ( I’m going to leave it at that) so I’m trying to be conscious of NOT projecting my experience on her.
Backing up, in planning my own family (I’m a planner) I wanted to make sure my children had siblings–I grew up with none. I never even considered this meant that I would have no experience WITH siblings and that eventually, someday, somehow, I would feel helpless and unsure of what to do. Now as parents we often feel this way (ok, I do). I subscribe to the belief that you have to name it to tame it so I started calling this predicament Parenting Limbo.
My first taste of Parenting Limbo happened the very first night we (my now ex-husband and I) brought our first child–the one now starting adolescence–home from the hospital. During daylight hours she was a swaddled angel, but when the sun went down that night all bets were off and she started to scream. Not just scream-crying. Blood curdling, like we were killing her screaming… Or that’s how it felt. I thought the neighbors were going to call the police. We were terrified because of course she never did this in the three nights she was in the hospital (that we saw) and we thought something was horrifically wrong. We called the birthing unit, the pediatrician, my mother, grandmother, even my brother in law. Rest assured she was just being a newborn and we were simply in the throws of, yep, you guessed it… Parenting Limbo.
Fast forward to today and many manifestations of this phenomenon with one main difference…a multiplier unlike any other: adolescence.
Respecting the privacy of those involved I won’t go into the gory details right now, but what’s relevant to this post is that attention and focus is really on her at this particular moment because that’s what’s called for based on circumstances. Couple that with when there is a combination of working and divorced parents time is a precious commodity.
So the other night I was putting my littlest one (or littler, he’s eight) to bed–the one not yet going into adolescence. And he started to launch into his own perspective on the situation. He’s effected too (duh, Mom) and he was upset. What’s a mom of two to do? And then I remembered what I’m doing here…on this blog, in essence:
“You know when I’m feeling upset, sometimes I write a letter to the person I’m angry with… Not even to give it to them. Just to get it off my chest. It might help sort out things to get them out of your head and on paper.”
He took a moment and thought that out:
“That could be a good idea. I would say…” and he started to tell me what he would write, and it wasn’t mean or judgmental. It was from his point of view and focused on how he was feeling. What fascinated me was in presenting to him the concept of writing a letter she may never see he totally changed his wording and disarmed the delivery. I thought if this could work for an eight year old, could it work for me too when I was in conflict with someone I love?
So the next time I’m in a heated debate, I’m going to try it… I’m going to try wording my response as if it’s a letter to “get it off my chest” and see if I can disarm my words too. If it works I may even tell my son how much he taught ME.