On these endless waves we seem to ride up and down, I’m up on a good one. My daughter hit rock bottom on Sunday and had a full-on temper tantrum on the stairs before church, screaming that she hated my guts and wanted to go to foster care. I stayed perfectly calm and offered to call the county for her. Still crying but crying softer, she said she was just really mad and didn’t mean it.
We had a great conversation after that. She volunteered that she had felt too uncomfortable being “the good teenage girl” because it was so unfamiliar. It was uncomfortable for her to trust me and for us to be getting closer and having real emotional intimacy. So she sabotaged herself and got back to the muck that felt so familiar to her. She did her best to disappoint me and make me angry to push me away, but I’m in a particularly calm place right now so I just loved her back. The counselor is always telling me that these kids will do anything to make their parents mad because it makes them feel powerful and it prevents them from having to deal with their own feelings. When I stay calm, my daughter is left with only her feelings to deal with. I felt like a limp noodle when we were done on Sunday, but I stayed calm and loving.
We talked about how she has two parts to herself: one that wants to be good and one that doesn’t. Usually the one that doesn’t want to be good wins because that part is the oldest, strongest, and has the most developed muscles. The part that wants to be good was thrilled when she got her phone and was able to hang out with her friends, but as Kaylyn put it, “it was weird.” She said she felt so ashamed of herself for messing up.
I told her that my favorite definition of success is not the absence of failure but longer and longer intervals in between failures. She liked that. It gave her permission to mess up (since we all mess up) without it being this big shameful thing. A mess-up is just a dip in the road on the way to longer and longer stretches of healthy behavior. The counselor told her today that we would be happy with even one good day. No pressure.
Since our talk on Sunday, Kaylyn has let herself get closer to me again and it is feeling really nice. I know there will be more mess-ups and more nice moments and more mess-ups again, so I am just going to enjoy this nice moment. I’m proud of her and delighted that I can find so many things to enjoy about her.
And my son. Oh my goodness, he got his first job! If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. And it’s the perfect job for him, bagging groceries at the local mom-and-pop grocery store that’s like the hangout in town. My son applied for a job there almost a year ago, and they have an interesting “interview” process: if a kid really wants a job there, he or she has to come in every couple of days and put their name on a piece of paper saying basically, “I still want this job.” When they offered Gavin the job last Saturday, they told him he had signed in 155 times. Only one other kid had ever signed in more often.
So Gavin, who has such a great heart, is so loyal and has such a good work ethic is up on the merry-go-round. Forever after, he will be able to say he has work experience. And I know he will do such a good job for them. It’s an area wherein he can really excel, just doing whatever they ask him to do and caring enough to do it well. I’m so proud of him and so excited for him that he gets to be like his friends now. The prestige of having a job, the satisfaction of saving for something important, some spending money and feeling normal.
The road is not perfectly smooth sailing, but these two little smooth spots are mighty welcome. We’ve been in rough seas for so long, I was past seasick and on to mutinous. But here come two sweet little moments and it’s enough to fill my tank for another go round. I am feeling really proud of my kids and happy to be able to feel it.
Photo credit: help-me-change.com/smoothsailing1.jpeg