Parenting Teens in Quicksand: Why I Thought I Was Lucky My Parents Illegally Grew Pot and My Best Friends Ditched Me #parenting #teens

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Rider-Waite Tarot

When my children began approaching the dreaded years of adolescence, aptly marked by the death card in Tarot, I began to count my blessings. Look what I avoided, I thought. And, look what I saved myself from…

Like my own children, I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be liked and admired, and I was, until I wasn’t. One dance changed my life forever, and like many teenagers who plunge from the peak of popularity into the grimy sludge at the bottom of the social ladder, I thought my life was ruined forever.

Who doesn’t want to be popular? Who doesn’t want to be liked? Even as adults, we can struggle against the ideal of the outer, while neglecting the inner. Forgetting that to be liked for some superficial ideal does not fill the fountain of unconditional love.

Last night I found myself struggling for words to show my sixteen-year-old daughter that there is a freedom that can be found when you shed the desire to be admired for some outer ideal that someone else has defined for you. That when you strip away the layers of makeup and pretense, you allow your true self to shine through. I struggled, in part, because when I looked into her eyes, I saw a part of myself I still recognized.

In the reflection of my daughter’s tears, I saw the familiar face of fear. How could I show her, I wondered, that beneath fear there is strength, when I had not wholly found it within myself? As I sat opposite her on the couch, I began to call into question my own beliefs. Suddenly, I was not so sure that I had been fortunate to have found and walked, early in my adolescence, the path of the straight and narrow. I wasn’t sure I was lucky, because instead of following my own inner compass, I had followed the road-signs of rules defined through fear.

Sure, it was true I had, in the process of walking this path, avoided the clutches of promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. I had avoided STDs, teenage pregnancy, and the wild loss of control of being drunk. Yet, as I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I realized that in that process of avoidance of the forbidden, I had held on tighter to fear than my truth.

I feared so greatly my world falling apart while growing up, that the only thing I could do was follow rules set by someone else in order to feel a tenuous steady state of security. Every time I started to veer off the course defined for me, I feared the rage of my stepfather and the loss of love of my mother.

My childhood was not conventional. I grew up in homes where marijuana was secretly grown, smoked, and shared under the radar of the law. I lived in a constant fear of the discovery of my parents’ many secrets to such a degree that I had no desire to break the law myself. Or most rules for that matter. I never really and truly played the role of the rebellious teenager because of fear.

Conditional love comes with great costs. My daughter has already discovered this. When I began speaking up to my parents when my children were young, she learned the rules of conditional love. She has lost a step-grandfather and a grandmother, not through death, but through conditions. I finally broke the rules and began speaking and living in alignment with my truth, and she, along with others, suffered the consequences. Many who read this will recognize how this pattern works. Truth often comes at the cost of great loss. As I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I understood the pain that she struggled with. How much she wanted to avoid losing the social foundation she had built under her feet. And, I also understood, in that moment, that although I was disappointed with my daughter’s behavior, I needed to set that aside and remind her that I loved her. Now, and always.

As I try to navigate the role of mother to teenagers, I call into question whether my “straight and narrow path” saved me from anything aside from danger to my physical body. I now walk on quicksand, unsure. How can I truly understand the need or desire to test the limits of freedom when I chose, early on, to hold myself in constraints?

I find myself in the role of parent, but also child. My daughter, seeking guidance from me, while I learn through her. She is living the role that I never did. Bold and defiant. Daring to break rules and stretch limits as she seeks to find out who she really is. How can I tell her not to break the rules if I don’t wholly understand the feeling of freedom?

Do Over Day

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

It’s been one of those days.  There were moments, more than one, when I wanted to hold my hands up to the sky and ask, “Can I erase the last 24 hours and have a do over?”

But that’s a fool’s wish. To wish that life could go backwards and erase, then place before us a new scene all fresh and sparkly clean, is not only futile, it’s self-limiting. Life has a way of serving up our greatest lessons in a bowl filled with needles. They prick us in the exact spot that needs to be healed. They find the wound that was already there, even if it has been buried for a long, long time, and dig in until we bleed fresh.

It’s not always obvious why we’re being pricked and prodded at. Or, why it may seem like we’re being asked to walk over a pile of red-hot coals in order to get to the next leg of our journey.  But, when we allow ourselves to dig down to the essence — that spot that is rubbed raw and open from the wound — we can find a bit of the light behind the story we have just lived.

Today was one of the most challenging days of my life. Maybe not in the top ten, but I’d safely put in in the top twenty-five. It could have been much worse than it was. And, in retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t all that bad after all. If someone else had lived my day, she or he might have considered it less than great, but not all that bad in the greater scheme of things. Just a part of the life of a parent, they might say. To be expected, but not by me.

The events of the last 24 hours brought me out of my individual cocoon of dormant life. Threads were pulled until the raw exposed body remained and I was faced with the choice: Do I find another wrapping to hide inside, or do I face the elements head on. Here’s the thing about these choices, there’s really only one option. If we hide, life will simply find another way to unwrap us, and chances are, it will be a harsher exposure than the one we face at the present moment.

To hide is to put off the inevitable. We are here to learn and grow, and quite often that learning and growing is not just for our sake, but for others as well. Our lives weave together in a sophisticated complexity that our minds cannot wholly grasp. Sometimes it’s better not to ask the full depth of they “why,” then, but to accept the growth that is offered.

Therein lies the beauty. The raw self exposed begins to heal. Air breathes through the freshly opened wounds and the light that feeds life spreads its golden filaments to repair what was once broken. Now I find myself peering inside the wound(s), trusting the network that I cannot wholly understand. How my life is woven to others. Some I barely know, some I have known since conception. I find myself seeing the love that has already woven its threads through the hurt and the pain. I find trust and strength that I didn’t know was there. There is a vulnerability that feels both uncomfortable and embracing.

It could have been worse, much worse, and I am grateful that is wasn’t. Today has been a reminder, above all else, of what is constant and unchanging, albeit difficult to hold onto at times. And that, simply, is love. No matter how difficult we make it for ourselves to find it, it is always there. That constant pulse of life threading through all of us. Love. Pure and simple, yet infinitely complex in its reach. And so I breathe it in with each inhale and trust that it is always enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Teenage Daughter and Her Teenage Cat #parenting

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Millie

“So, when do you think she’ll no longer be a teenager?” my daughter asks me after her 13-month-old cat, Millie, nips her for the tenth time while she tries to pet her.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe another year, until she’s two,” I tell her, thinking how fortunate it is for her that cat years pass by much more quickly than human years.

Not that I would trade my years with my daughter for anything, but even she is aware that her fire personality combined with her teenage-hood makes parenting a challenge. I find it rather amusing that her cat is now a mirror for her.

Millie spent her first 10 months with us as a lovable, albeit curious, kitten. She adored my daughter’s adoration and returned her doting affections with smiles, purrs and frequent snuggles. If my daughter wanted to cuddle her, she’d pick Millie up and nestle her into her shoulders. Not any more.

These days, Millie-the-teenage-cat, starts the day by positioning herself strategically in front of the fridge. If she was tall enough, the door would knock her over. Instead, she looks up at the first human to draw near and stares him or her down until bits of turkey or chicken are laid at her feet. Her two dog sisters stand back aghast, waiting for their bits to fly through the air.

After Millie has finished her breakfast (the bits of turkey are usually followed by a trip into the basement to gorge on actual cat food), Millie follows the dogs and my husband out the front door for their morning walk. Two houses down, she leaves the pack and settles in for a day at her second home the neighbor’s to chase bees and dragonflies. Some days we don’t see her until dusk, after I meander down the road and call her home. I say some days, because on other days that are not rainy, Millie will completely ignore my calling and stretch the time of her curfew into minutes, or even an hour past. Choosing to return home on her own time.

I like to remind my daughter how alike they are as she bemoans the loss of her loving kitten who has suddenly transformed into a moody, unpredictable, and sometimes down-right mean little cat. “She’s a teenager,” I tell her. “This is what it’s like.”

Sometimes I want to also tell her to cherish the rare moments. Those times when Millie suddenly remembers that she loves her and allows my daughter to scoop her into her arms for a hug and a kiss…the nights when she curls into the covers beside her…but then I stop, because, in truth, no moment with Millie is more precious than another. Just as no moment with my daughter is. Sure, there are days, more than I can count, when I catch myself wondering when this stage in life will be over, but they are fleeting. Eventually I replace them with the knowing that my daughter, like her cat, is living her life as she should be, and teaching her parents, in the process, many things along the way as we each learn to hold on and to let go at the same time. She knows, just as Millie does, that the doorway will always open for her and there will always be arms to enfold, but those same arms  and that door will not shut to confine.

It’s not always easy, as my daughter is also learning through Millie, for a parent to embrace the adolescent journey toward the independent self, but through the struggles the love that always remains makes it worth it.