Tough Love

I hate being the Mom. Being the Mom sucks sometimes.

I love being the Friend. The Goof. The Lollipop Fairy. The Boo-boo Kisser. The Cheerleader. The Philosophy Teacher. But I hate being the Mom.

The Mom–defined as the Law Giver. The Layer Down of the Law. The Disciplinarian. The New Sheriff In Town. The Obliterator of Fun. The Queen of Rules.

When my child comes to me and has a problem, my first inclination is to care for her emotions. Natch. But when the behavior continues without benefit from a pep talk or correction, I have to buckle up and hunker down.

My child is an easy one. She’s open to correction, soft-hearted, fair-minded, vulnerable, caring and intentional. Except when she’s not.

And when she’s not? I’m at a loss.

Lately, she’s been resisting change and challenge. This is a normal sign of teenage growing pains. Right? The urge to resemble a couch. I should know, I was a teenager and very much resembled our living room sofa.

She’s almost 14 and showing all the signs of impending, hard-core teen-tric lethargy. It’s concerning. I’m worried about her slipping off into depression if we don’t combat her lack of motivation.

That was my problem. That is a problem of teens, IMO. My freshman year was my most vulnerable. I tried to commit suicide my freshman year because I felt so isolated. Living by rules, wanting independence. On the cusp of adulthood, but still a child. Wanting total acceptance from EVERYONE, including your parents, NO MATTER WHAT!

These unrealistic desires could make any person frustrated, confused and DEPRESSED! Not to mention dealing with complex societal and peer group issues with a not-fully-matured frontal lobe. Suffering from inexperience, lack of impulse and emotional control, and hormonal imbalance.

With my mental illness history, I feel justified in being, at the very least, concerned. And she herself said, without prompt from me, “I’m unmotivated.” That’s awesome self-reflection and honesty. Great sign for us as we tackle her dissatisfaction.

Honestly, she has no reason to be dissatisfied. She has a nice, cozy home. Food to eat. Clothes (nice clothes) on her back and a good school. She has all the conveniences of modern society. I take her to school and pick her up. I am here for her in the morning and when she gets home. She is emotionally supported. And by Dad as well. But dissatisfaction is lying just under the covers of her more-than-adequate, queen-sized, Princess-and-the-Pea mattress.

Why?

It also doesn’t seem to matter that I remind her of her blessings. Put her life into perspective, in sharp contrast to those who have very little and have no opportunity to receive an education or are shot trying to get one. That has no lasting effect. I realize in my attempt to give her the finer things, I have denied her appreciation and gratitude.

We as a society are suffering from the same plight. Teenage apathy. Things are so nice that we forget how lucky we are. We are so dissatisfied after achieving some degree of success that we have to buy a therapist to figure out why. I’ve realized this, but my daughter hasn’t achieved any level of enlightenment in regard to privilege. And even so, do we act any differently? Or do we still chase those materialistic dreams of apparent success?

In my own life, I have accepted the ups and downs of luxury and deprivation. Some days you will suffer and at other times you will have plenty. Days with money aren’t stress free. You have to manage that money. No one has a money tree in their backyard. Any amount of money requires management. It helps when there’s enough to manage. I will say that’s less stressful. But having enough is only slightly less nerve-racking.

I try to be thankful for whatever situation I find myself in and remind myself, no matter what, you’re still breathing. It helps when you’ve been near death to frame life in this way. But I don’t want my daughter to experience what I have to know her place and value and blessing. I want to spare her that. But am I denying her an education in the lesson of life if I try to shield her from any pain or suffering? I’m not sure.

Last night, I showed her frustration on my part. I tried to be soft and kind, but I also let her know how frustrated I was. We try to be honest about our feelings. I let her know, “I’m trying here.” This was in response to her growing dissatisfaction with home, school, life in general. I could tell she was checking out. I could tell she was uncomfortable and uneasy. And she was. We are pretty in tune. Our whole family tends to wear our hearts..well, all over the outside, not just on the sleeve! LOL

I let her know, I’m trying to encourage. Prepare. Provide help-physical and mental. Shop for school supplies. Walk her into the office to learn about lockers. Pick up and drop off. Attend back-to-school nights. Be here physically while she’s adjusting. Help with homework. Communicate. Ask questions. Love. Listen. Linger. Snuggle up at night and let our hair down. Let go of the reins, at times. But doing all the right things doesn’t always leave her happy, well-adjusted or satisfied. That’s tough.

My happy, joyful, outgoing daughter has turned into the occasional emotional lump of tears. That makes me anxious, nervous, concerned. Frustrated.

I don’t want to guilt her. But I’m beginning to understand the power of wielding this device judiciously. Ugh. I hate that. But. A little frustration and letting her know how exasperated I might be? May be the only medicine. And it’s a jagged pill for her to swallow. But it’s also a tough pill to administer. You know the old saying, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Now I understand. Except my parents said that about spanking, not tough emotional love. LOL

Sometimes you wanna scoop your kids up. But sometimes scooping doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to be tough and show them, you got it pretty good, Kid. Appreciate it.

*Old man voice* “Back in my day, we rode a cow to school! And we liked it! Thankful to have a cow! And a school! And a butt made for cow-riding!”


NOTE: I did not ride a cow to school. But my mom did. LOL 🙂


What I really want for her is to know God deeply. To rely on him. What I really want is to see her help and work hard and get dirty in the business of God service. I’m hoping after graduation, she and I could find an outreach to really help people. Maybe even overseas. But that scares me. Mission work. Would I be endangering her life with illness or violence?

The Bible says:
Romans 14:8
“for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I have to trust that God will protect us if we are about his business. He has plans to prosper, not hurt. But she has to decide what’s right for her. I trust her in that. That is a good feeling! And I know, I never want to be separate from her. That much I know.

And I want her to decide what’s best. Not become what Mom wants, not just do what Mom says. I just want to be a good mom and support her in whatever she does, wherever she goes, whatever decisions she makes. She may want to be a full-blown NYC artist or LA Nintendo character designer or international aid worker. Or Floridian housewife. 🙂 Whatever she does, she will change the world, offer kindness and show God through her spirit. That much I know.

I’m waiting patiently for her to make a decision about where she wants to go after school. It’s still 4 years away. Who knows where life will take us. Who knows what she will want in 4 years or what opportunities she will have. We have to be stable for the next 4 years to get to where God will have us. I think she deserves a 4-year period of stability to get through high school. To prepare her. To ride out this rough patch of frontal lobe and heart development! LOL

I’m ready for anything though. So is she. She has such a willing heart at times. She’s up for adventure, as I am, when we have each other to be brave. She’s my best friend. It took courage to get to Florida. Who knows what God wants for your life until you’re knee-deep in it, right?

After our come-to-Jesus moment last night, she had a pretty good morning. Praying that she has a great day. I pray that every day. But this morning I cringed at the thought of tough love after I dropped her off. But sometimes, it’s required.

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