A Place for Uniqueness, Questioning, Musing, and Celebrating
As the mom of a teenager, I have cheered, prayed, cried, and yes - I have yelled. Probably more than I should have. Something about the almost casual dismissal I get from her at times is unbelievably frustrating. I want the best for her. I want her to be HER best. She wants me to leave her alone.
As the mom of a depressed teenager, I have learned some things the hard way. I would never have wished for these particular lessons to be learned in the manner they have been, but they were lessons I needed nonetheless. They have opened doors that I was beginning to worry were permanently closed.
1. Judge Less
By the time they become teenagers, kids know what you think about almost everything. I have always been so tempted to push my agenda for her whenever I saw my daughter taking a difficult path or doing something I wouldn't personally do. The thing is, she tuned me out. Imagine that. The more she strayed, the harder I would push - and the farther she would slip away.
By keeping my opinions to myself when I can (which is not always), she has become more likely to talk to me and share her feelings. Except on matters of safety, I have become Switzerland. She knows how I feel. Now we need to deal with how SHE feels.
2. Talk less, listen more.
This is almost the same principle, but it applies to "helpful advice" as well. It is so easy to try to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and give advice. It's almost second nature to a mom. We want to help. We want to make things better. We try to talk it into existence - or at least I did. The problem is, the more I would talk, the quieter she would get. You could almost see the wall go up.
I have discovered that by biting my tongue and listening, she talks more. I am trying to keep my feedback to the occasional question to keep the conversation going, but I have found that even that needs to be very limited. No pressure listening is something I'm really, really working on.
3. Don't push so hard.
I have watched this depression creep up on my child. I have tried and tried to help. Guess what? The more I tried, the less she wanted it. I have really had to work on letting her come to me. It is so hard when you see your child hurting...it is so hard not to scoop her up and try to protect her. I have repeatedly made the mistake of pushing too hard to get her to talk, to share what is upsetting her, and to let me help her. I certainly don't advocate letting a depressed teen deal with that depression alone, but we have reached a point where she is beginning to understand that I'm on her side. That changes things.
I have found that if I just make myself available, she is much more likely to come to me. Now that we've created somewhat of a system, she knows she can come to me...and I let her. I wait for it. It is HARD. It is so hard. But she comes to me. If I forget...if I push...I still get shut down. At least until I take a step back and respect her space.
This is not a season in our lives that I would have chosen. I wish things were different for her...better. But I am grateful for these opportunities to retool my parenting and be the kind of mom she needs me to be.
You know the song "No Rain" by Blind Melon? The one with the video where the weird little girl dressed like a bee tap dances through life trying to find kindred spirits and a place to be herself? That's me.