Child number 2 was born in 2002, right here in Bangor. She was the happiest baby and toddler…charming, grinning, curious and a total hug-a-bug. Girly-girl…always wanting a stack of bracelets, a swath of necklaces, every scarf I owned and had been introduced to french Vogue by her Auntie. By the time she was 8 she could do nails better than I could. Especially after having a first child with severe special needs, this was dream parenting as far as I was concerned. She was loving, laid back, funny and wanted to be exactly like me.
Then do you know what happened? The tween years hit and the realization smacked me right between the eyes, she’s exactly like me. Know what that means, gentle reader? That means for all intents and purposes…there are two of me. Head-strong, big hearted, easily offended, quick to anger (that’s a nice way of saying we both have short tempers and blow like TNT with little to no provocation), worrier, dark-humored, too smart for her own good, quick witted, acerbic, speaks sarcasm like it’s her mother tongue and has no idea how to retreat gracefully..if she’s going down it’s going to be in flames and she’s taking you with her. Sound familiar? (Hi Mom & Dad! Love you!)
She went from being Mommy’s little shadow….
to being this gorgeous, tall, funny as hell and very opinionated almost teenager.
Since Hallee didn’t go through a lot of the typically developing behaviors, a lot of this teen type stuff is new for me. I see a kid straddling the line between being a tween and being a young adult and I’m trying to give her the guidance she needs. But unfortunately, that can lead to some pretty craptacular blow-outs when she feels that I’m pushing too hard. There’s the much lauded eye-rolling, door slamming (“I swear to God, if you slam that door one more time, I’m taking it off the hinges!”), foot stomping…and that’s just me. (I kid)
Here are some of the things I’m learning as I go.
Don’t give in to emotions. If the kid says something hurtful (and they will), take a step back. Don’t take it personally. The first few times it happened I was so hurt..completely blown out of the water. I’d call my parents in tears and after they got done laughing at me, they’d say, “Get used to it. You’ll like each other again in about 6 years”.
Hit ’em where it hurts for punishment. And no, I don’t mean hit your kid..what do you, own a diner in Portland? My girl lives and dies by her phone. When things go too far, she loses that phone. She’s to old to care about time out and her room is too full of cool stuff for her not to want to be in there, so the phone goes. How long depends on the infraction.
You’re the grown up, act like it. You really have to be cool under pressure here. How she sees me react to stressful situations is how she’s going to pattern her own behaviors, so I work really hard on remembering that even though she’s got the wit and the mouth of Joan Rivers at times, she’s 12. She still needs my patience and the knowledge that no matter what happens, I’m there to guide and support her, even when she’s trying to make my head explode.
Stick to your guns. There can be no idle threats here. If you say the phone is gone, or that she’s grounded, or that there’s no internet for the rest of the week, be prepared to back it up. This was hard for me since the kid drove me to distraction with “Can I have it back? Can I have it back? Can I have it back now? Mom? Mom? Mom?” For hours and days on end. What I didn’t realize here was that by punishing her, I’d be getting punished as well, but you have to stick it out. If they figure out that your word is no good or that they can talk their way out of punishment, your authority (and respect) is gone.
Try to give them room to make their own mistakes. Sitting back and watching them fail at something sucks, but it’s important for them to know that nobody is great at everything and learning anything well takes time. Don’t let them give up just because something doesn’t go the way you want it to or isn’t easy. Kids that hear, “OH MY GOD…that stick figure is the best stick figure ever! You’re gifted!” and “Look at you take a sip of juice and not spill, wow! You’re the smartest kid ever!!” and never any helpful criticism are doomed to get a rude awakening sooner rather than later in the real world. Remember Prince Joffrey Lannister from Game of Thrones? Enough said.
Don’t forget to watch. It’s going by so fast. A couple of years and it’s high school, then college. Don’t miss this. Is it always easy? God no. There are days when I want to pull my hair out and howl at the moon. But the benefits? So, so worth it. She still wants to hold my hand when we’re walking. I still get kisses and hugs goodnight. I still check on her when she’s sleeping, just because I can. Maybe someday she won’t want me to do these things, so I try to cram in as much as I can, now. Now excuse me while I go take her bedroom door off the hinges.