When you have a kid who in four years has had more therapy than Woody Allen has had in a lifetime, conversations take on a skewed tone. It is like living in an episode of Oprah when Dr Phil is on. Every conversation seems to start with ‘I feel’ and ends with ‘does that resonate?’
The everyday is suddenly seen through the prism of analysis. Your kid, who really should be eye rolling at the general embarrassment of you being you and huffing at your lack of understanding of their clothing choices, music and other expected points of abrasion, is suddenly is an expert on your psychological functioning and presentation.
Maybe this is the case with all people in their teenage years that they have all have a searing ability to analyse their parent’s shortcomings but from the outside this seems to usually confine itself to teenagers making unsolicited, borderline rude, observations about Dad dancing, poor fashion choices and an inability to understand that LOL does not mean lots of love and that you don’t know your gifs from your memes.
We were driving, it is theme to our lives, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the car, some of my best memories are in the car, I digress as this wasn’t one of them. Having spent money on National Trust membership in an attempt to experience our Country’s history and architecture and to raise suitably geeky kids that I could communicate with, we head off to find such a national treasure. Failing as ever to notice that once out of the major cities, all these places are situated in the arse end of nowhere.
I hate being lost, I mean really hate it, I hate it the physical and the metaphysical sense, I hate it so much, I could and often do cry. So we are trundling down the back roads, having been sent the allegedly fastest and most direct route by the SatNav. Why these always involve grass growing up the middle of the track I have no idea, they always do. As luck would have it not only are these places off the beaten track they are apparently beyond satellite coverage too.
Hearing the words ‘GPS connection is lost’, my anxiety starts to rise. We are in the back of beyond. I have no sense of direction and my patience has evaporated as quickly as the sweeties bought for the journey that we inhaled several hours ago. The f- bombs start to fly, followed by ever more imaginative combinations of favourite swear words. The steering wheel is gripped ever tighter as we drive around aimlessly. Always summer, always high hedges, always a van in front, no view of anything ahead or to the side just the tunnel on the track to nowheresville. Whose stellar idea was this?
It is at this moment when my very therapized fifteen year old daughter feels the need to advise me that I do not handle frustration very well and that I should really consider working on this and have I been keeping up with my mindfulness practice? I wonder briefly if it would cause further psychological damage if I just start biting chunks out of the steering wheel or whether just making do with muttering ‘sod off’ inside my head will suffice.
I choose the latter; it seems the more sensible option with less long term effects.
That is one of the weird things about living with someone who is both an adolescent and unwell. They do the same things as everyone else’s kids but they do it differently.
Where I was expecting to have to deal with comments based on a lack of understanding that I consider it fine to wear a dress that low cut whilst the girls can be still hoicked up with a combination of advanced under wiring and chicken fillets, it not at all muttony and no you cannot smell the mint sauce, I get conversations about mindfulness and the power of breathing techniques.
Where I was expecting the arguments about being collected from parties and curfews, I get arguments about managing medications and not being trusted with scissors.
Sometimes, I long for the eye rolling conversations about the (what I now perceive to be) superficial stuff that I hear others talk about and I miss being able to share that rite of passage with other parents. I miss the teenager I was expecting to have, the regular worries and rows that everyone else seems to have. The pride in the regular, expected achievements and milestones that other people’s kids have.
Most of all I miss being able to share the milestones and achievements of my kid to an understanding audience of my parenting peers. Hers may not be the same as everyone else’s but they are hard fought for and won. Her battles are daily and she is often exhausted by fighting but she keeps on, the level of emotional maturity and understanding she has is immense and puts many educated adults to shame.
I am very proud of her and am learning to live with a life where the arguments and comments go beyond what I was expecting but the dynamic is still the same.