This sucks. This absolutely suck. I’m getting emotionally beaten up to a pulp. I’m feeling tense and uncomfortable in my own home on mildly good days and like a perpetual victim of helplessness and utter despair on bad days. The bedroom and the bathroom offer short havens of respite from what often feels like a never-ending battle field of utter ugliness. The seemingly insignificant misnomer becomes the central stage to heated debates worth the weight of the world in gold. Under-the-belt personal attacks; endless huge dramatic fights over e-v-e-r-y l-i-t-t-l-e t-h-i-n-g; and rudeness, resistance, and grossness to all those pitiful enough to be on the war path. This ride has not been easy and it’s far, far, far from over.
As a highly sensitive person [more about this later], I’m not doing well with this teenage thing. I’m not doing well with fights or crying fits most mornings. I’m not doing well with making every request sixteen times and getting attitude back. I’m drained from the drama in response to “pick up your things spewed all over the living room” or”put your shoes on and walk out the door because we’re late (again) to school”. I’m not doing well with this deep, dark feeling of ‘fuck you! I don’t give a shit!’ because I can’t push and be treated like shit over and over again and keep returning to the ring caring. It. Is. Hard. To. Hug. Thorns. and right now, my rose is all thorns and I’m not doing well with getting scrapped up all the time.
photo credit: sad dog
What I Don’t Want (and they ain’t pretty)
I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to nag. I don’t want to be so viciously repelled. And worse, I don’t want to feel inside of me this repulsion to one whom I most deeply want to love but feel like I just don’t know how to. I don’t want drama. I don’t want to be a police officer nor peace keeper. I don’t want to feel a victim in my own home. I don’t want to admit how often hatred oozes out of me. I don’t want it all so complicated all the time. I don’t want to say the things I’m saying in ugly desperation. I don’t want to throw punishments around like scarves in the wind. I don’t want. I don’t want. I don’t want. (As if with this mantra I’ll click my ruby slippers and it will all go away) And. I. Don’t. Want. To. Walk. On. Eggshells. All. The. Fucking. Time.
What I Do Want (and it’s beautiful)
I want my baby back. I want to cuddle and feel love and love without having to think so hard. I want laughter. I want to dance. I want to share moments and cherish them. I want to admire. I want to want to be near and stay there. I want long talks about good, deep topics and chitter chatter about not much of anything. I want to eat stress-free, breezy meals together. I want to go on walks. To color. To sing. To listen to music. To do the dozen things we used to enjoy doing when things were simpler.
I want to be clear. I want to be wise. I want to zoom out and know that it’s all going to be OK. I want to be strong. I want to feel confident. I want to be calm. I want to know that I’m doing this right. That I’m offering the right balance of limits and freedom and that I’m giving the space, while keeping the right boundaries that will let my child soar to her greatest heights. I want to smile and be smiled at. I want. I want. I want. (Now may this mantra please call in the fairies and make it all come true in 3, 2, 1…)
photo credit: sad daisies
What Also Exists
It’s not all black and white, you know. There are moments of laughter and caring and dancing. There are insights and conversations that challenge and blow my mind by the pure genius behind them. There are long, long, long moments of deep admiration and appreciate for some really tough stuff my child has to go through. There are standing up for me, standing up for a sibling, standing up for some ideal that is utterly beautiful. There is creative expression and true kindness and consideration. There is going out of your way to really help- even without being asked, not even once. There is going within and silence that is full of light and the highest good. There is accepting change with grace and eloquence that is unparalleled. There is wisdom. There is growth. There is development and beauty and goodness. Deep, true, pure, blindly beautiful light.
If you’ve felt the ugly stuff, here is your essential guide to getting through it.
1-Guard Your Precious Self
You protect you. You hug you. You separate yourself from your child’s journey. You are not to blame for what you child is going through. You are not solely responsible to make it all right, to fix it, to protect and take all the heat of this turbulent time for your child. No, momma, you. are. not. You surround yourself with love and the insight and wisdom that knows that when you zoom out, everything is going to be OK.
And when those fears surface, and when those voices choke you when they say what they said to me-
“Here is the intersection between getting passed this or falling into serious eating disorders, depression, or suicide”
you stop and realize that your biggest jobs (after protecting, bracing, and loving yourself) is a- finding the competent, support team who can and will guide her through her own darkness and b- create a sane home life with the right ever-delicate balance of limits/boundaries and freedom/independence to keep everyone safe and secure in this time of growth.
2- Re-educate Yourself
Start from scratch. Begin anew. Read books about parenting teens (here’s Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated– what I’m reading now and it’s great! ) , find a counselor you trust or a specially-teen parenting expert to guide you. Throw out what you knew and needed and what worked with your child and educate yourself for this new highly emotional, highly tumultuous storm and how to be wise, helpful, and positive throughout it. I’m going back to reading, researching, seeking new levels of understanding and new tools to deal. I am starting at ground zero and learning with tiny, baby steps. I am creating a blank slate that bows in to my utter ignorance and says something poetic like:
“I am an open book, modest and shaken in the wind. My pages are but empty. Please, masters, fill me“.
photo credit: sad flower with dew
3- Understand the Process
Embrace that now your teen needs to go through the healthy and normal separation process from you, the parent, the one whom he was closest to and the one whose identity he most closely has inter-meshed with his own and now, must separate from. Understand that the closer your child was to you, the more you cuddled, the more you talked and shared emotions and life, the more your child held your heart in his little hands and his in yours- the more this baby is gonna hurt. Severing ties that are intertwined by the heart hurts. It’s hard but necessary and something you want to take a step back from and understand that it’s temporary. When all of these internal storms are over, again, yes again, you and your child will be able to be friends again, be affectionate again, love each other without walking on egg shells and guarding yourself from the next irrational attack.
Yes, once this process has run it’s course, you get to, again, finally, enjoy your baby again. A different baby, after the metamorphosis of his personal inferno and the cocoon of himself, he will emerge again, in full color, full brilliance, and full joy, a new being to discover and enjoy and be proud of, as he stands, by his own right, and knows who he is and what his value is.
And it may be a long, long road, but you are wise and patient and can wait for it. You can. So can I.
3- Step Back and Step Away
This does not mean withdraw from your child (which is also necessary when the emotional attacks become too personal and too much). This means understand that your child now has to find his greatest support from outside of the home and your job is to do your damn bestest to be sure that that support is sound, positive, and constructive with your child’s highest and most light-filled interests in mind.
Find a therapist, a counselor, some mentor in school to be there, fully be there (also with payment if you can’t find this support for free) for your child. We watched a school system who had good intentions allow our daughter fall deep, deep within the cracks and wither away into nothingness while it used it’s limited resources to the best possible ends but did not give her the support she needed. No more. Now, we are on it, the free and the by-payment support that we need for our daughter will be pushed, insisted upon, and prioritized until no one will accidentally allow this to go unnoticed.
But step back means “take it out of the home”. Let me explain this and it’s opposite.
photo credit: sad ball
4- Out of the Home
Out of the Home means that people who are not emotionally involved will be able to best help your child and best guide you through this process. When our daughter stayed home for weeks at a time, refusing to go to school, or sat crying in the car for weeks every morning or scream fits in the morning at home; I was alone for those months and could. not. handle. it. I felt utterly alone in witnessing the shrinking of my daughter and sank under the intensity of it all. When I finally got a meeting with the school staff, they empathetically watched me cry, handed me a tissue, and proceeded to share how many dozens of kids they’ve watched skip school/freak out/lose their way/go through painful processes until finding themselves and their way to create a meaningful growth path for themselves.
What you are going through, like what we’ve been going through at home, may seem like the worst, hardest, singular case of home hell on the planet. But, truth be known, it’s not, and not even close. Know, sister and brother, that you are not alone. We felt very, very alone and drowning, alone, clueless and then found out that what was happening in our house was so normal it’s almost textbook, and that, in and of itself, was tremendously helpful. Turns out thousands of teens and their parents go through this growing-up hell and that in the vast majority of the cases, I think, it turns out alright.
Out of the Home also means that your job is to help your child find wonderful ways to build her self-esteem and value outside of the home. In school, after school activities, a youth group, sports, music, any craft, a first babysitting job- anything outside of the home that lets them develop their most awesome selves.
5- In the Home
No matter how responsible outside, no matter how beautiful outside, actually, no matter how things suck out of the house too (which is more of our personal story), life at home will often still be as if you are facing a totally different person, a person, a real person, without the mask on, one who is exhausted and overwhelmed by it all, and, particularly at home, where she feels he can, she will let off the guard and be often lazy, rude, and the worse case of selfish and egotistical. Welcome home.
And yet, it is still our job to figure out how to maneuver wisely and sanely in this home life. How to bring love into it all. How to face the maddening dichotomy between one who is mature and responsible and demanding freedom one second and fighting like a baby over the pettiest things the next. How to keep it all together and how to still connect and find common ground and emerge (still) a family.
I’m still learning and taking itsy-bitsy baby steps here, and will be honored to share with you as we learn. So far the absolute best thing we’ve done is go away as a family. We’re traveling again this summer and being in a big space (friend gave us a home in Latvia), being away from all of those stressors and the hardships of her school reality, being quiet and having time to do nothing in particular but enjoy has brought so much light into our lives.
Just last night things started to get heated and though I wanted to slash back, I held my tongue. She pushed full force into her list of grievances and, too exhausted to get into it, I mumbled, “Yes, I get it” and walked away. She came after me, insisting, arguing, demanding that I understand her side and when I stayed silent, expressionless and listening; it all sort of faded away and dissolved into an unexpected loving moment. You see, she started crying, “Mom, I just wanted you to understand how I feel and you walked away while I was talking. That really hurt my feelings,” and put her head on my shoulder. She wanted a hug, so I, deer-in-the-headlights-numb, hugged her and it was beautiful, so deeply beautiful.
photo credit: tree before storm
And on the harder days, in the home it is still our job to provide a loving environment of support and safety. This may become extremely hard to do as you feel bitter, used, hurt, and disgusted by a child who takes endlessly and gives (barely) begrudgingly. This is hard to do when you have emotionally distanced yourself from this hormonal pulsating energy source of constant conflict and grossness. It is hard to do when all around your teen are being attacked and you just don’t feel love right now. “Love “is far, far away from the list of adjectives you would use to describe your feelings for your child. And still, against all logical evidence, it is precisely love and support that your seemingly ungrateful teen needs most.
So, as much as you are able to, give love, love, love, love in whatever way you can do so. Make food they like, help them out with chores (though you may be fuming that theirs are still undone), buy them something they like, make their bed, say ‘hi’ and smile and hold your tongue with whatever critical comment you are dying to say. Deposit poker chips, like Richard Lavoie says so beautifully in the movie below. [One of the most powerful parenting movies I’ve seen! Highly, highly recommended!]
A huge part of At Home includes be sure that your teen has at home a corner to retreat to where they can have ultimate privacy. Be sure your child has extra privileges that help them feel more mature and more responsible than younger siblings around him. (We won’t get into what to do when he does nothing for that leads to more telling them what to do and more pain and more fights and we’ll save that for another day. It’s yet another confusing part of this no-logic-riddle).
Just remember, the take-home-message is that you want your child to feel the Hall of Fame in the video below and you want to always remember that you can “walk straight through hell with a smile” because you Mom, because you Dad, you’re a champion, and don’t ever forget it!
6- Be Just Right Here
In the Healthy Soul in a Healthy Body class that I taught right before leaving for the Baltics, two of the women in the course had been to a physical therapist who finishes her work by having the patient go from the area to injury and lift an arm high into the air and repeat, “I release and no longer worry,” and let it all go. This has become the living mantra for us in this class- I release and no longer worry- and we use it in relationships, with money, with health, with anything that we would normally put a lot of worry and concern into. And it works like a charm.
I am practicing being here and now and facing what is before me as it unfolds and when it’s done- releasing it. Do I have fears regarding going back next year? Is it possible that next year could be worse than this one? How will my son who can’t sit for more than a minute and has zero motivation to study anything lose himself in middle school too? What will it be like having two, and sometimes three, tweens at the same time? And I see it, observe it, and release it.
Here’s my power prayer, my mantra of sanity, my grounding work (Join me, if it fits for you) :
I am strong. I am powerful. I am able to do this. I am capable of handling whatever life brings me. I will handle it as it comes and only when it comes. I will do the best that I am able to do at any given moment in my life and no more and no less than that. I am able to parent my children, also through their teenage years. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself. I adore and love my children. I have the support and will find the help and knowledge I need to help each of my children soar to the best of my ability. After that, and after all, it is their journey and their choice what they do in their lives and the daily decisions they make towards who they will become. I release and no longer worry. I release and no longer worry. I release and no longer worry. Amen.
The Ego Buster
I’ve taught parenting classes for years and thought that if there is at least this one thing that I know, it’s parenting. After a Master’s degree, endless additional courses and books on parenting, and helping hundreds (personally, in groups, here online under parenting and at Successful Modern Child); you could call me a highly-intuitive, remarkably successful parenting expert. My ego would squirm with delight for the praise of feeling it’s done good to to so many families and has brought light to the normal darkness of the nights we all walk through in family life. And yet, as I told my children’s’ school principal last week,
I can help mothers say goodbye to their children who have died. I can help women who have gone through childhood rape in the hands of their fathers and his friends. I can help people who actively want to commit suicide. But as soon as my teenager crumbles under the weight of her world and her conclusion is that she has no value; as soon as my kid falls between the cracks and gets stuck inside the darkest crevices and can’t see who he is, I cannot handle it. I cannot. I implode into tiny, tiny emotional shrapnel.
photo credit: sad car
Highly Sensitive Person
It’s an actually categorized condition. Not necessarily DSM (the books psychiatrists use to classify and diagnose psychological disorders) but often written about and with an entire series of excellent Highly Sensitive Person books by Dr. Elaine Aron.
One reviewer of her book, this fascinating man named Stephen Pletko, put it this way:
Answer true or false to these ten statements as they apply to you:
1. I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days to any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
2. I am easily overwhelmed by things such as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.
3. I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
4. I startle easily.
5. I make it a point to avoid violent movies or TV shows.
6. Changes in my life shake me up.
7. When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous and shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
8. I am very conscientious.
9. When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.
10. I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
I am a highly sensitive person. Always have been; most likely, always will be. I feel things intensely. Take things intensely. Absorb the negative energy and shit from others intensely. And it sticks. I have many tools (some of which I successfully use) to protect my fragile lovely inner child from the harshness of life, but often, I realize it a bit too late.- from Why Traveling Again with my Family Scares the Shit out of Me
And so, this teenage thing, I take it very, very personally and it is hard for me to distance myself from the pain that those around me are experiencing and throwing off of themselves. I have much to work on and more and more to learn from my journey here on Earth as a parent to these amazing, remarkable, magical, complicated, beautiful children.
Speak, or don’t, I feel you. I see you. I feel you. I do. I know that you’ve been here and that maybe, just maybe, you feel an ounce better, an minute calmer, a tad less lonely and a mile more capable. I’m here.
Thanks for letting me share my journey and yours,
Ever growing, ever learning,
One Cool Movie About Gabi’s Parenting Work
Gabi is a certified trauma therapist, family communications expert, energy healer, and life coach with a Masters in Psychology. She shares her personal life stories and insights to inspire others to share their honest, neurotic selves and do all that is necessary to Clean Your Soul. She believes that all of us are on our journey from pain to the light, and by staying inspired and aware, we can all reach our fullest, cleanest, most beautiful free selves. Gabi takes a very limited number of one-on-one clients for transformational parenting, family, life, and trauma therapy. You may reach Gabi directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: coaching inquiry.
Feature image photo credit: sad kitten
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